15. Learn about something completely unfamiliar to you

Real listening can’t happen unless we have a sincere desire to understand what we’re hearing. And that’s not an easy thing to manage because it requires us to suspend judgment. (Ann Cuddy)

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One thing became so clear to me before, during, and after this election: we had stopped listening to each other. Rather than taking time to learn and listen, we found ourselves in an echo chamber, only reading and hearing things that confirm or reinforce our entrenched beliefs. And then talking over anyone who came from an echo chamber different from our own.

Amidst the flurry of tweets, posts, comments, and reactions surrounding the election, I had to pause and listen. Listen to my own heart and then figure out how to step out of myself and my own deeply held beliefs to learn. I want to learn and hear the stories and thoughts and feelings held by those that are outside of the echo chamber where I currently reside.

This means I have to ask questions without an underlying tone of judgment or persuasion. I want to learn about the ways people think and live life that are entirely different to mine. I want to sit and drink coffee with people from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences, but in order to do that I have to be willing to learn and understand the heart of what I’m hearing instead of filtering it through my own experiences.

My prayer for us all is that we become better listeners. And that our goal becomes understanding and empathy rather than convincing and judgment. That we aim to learn and love instead of criticize and tear down.

May we make the most of this holiday season with friends and family through a demonstration of love and truth and grace all wrapped up in hope. Perhaps if we’re all willing to learn something completely unfamiliar to us some of the gaps will be united, some bridges will be built, and relationships deepened.

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