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GUEST VIEW: Really listening can heal us - Odessa American: Guest Columns

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GUEST VIEW: Really listening can heal us

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Posted: Sunday, June 21, 2020 3:45 am

The history of this nation is one filled with uncomfortable scar tissue that sometimes we wish didn’t exist. As events continue to unfold in our society, we are reminded it does. That scar tissue serves both as a reminder of who we are as Americans and what we have endured. It is also a reminder of how far we have come and the direction we should be headed.

What is happening and has been happening in this nation is nothing short of heartbreak.

What happened to George Floyd is the result of a peace officer who failed miserably at his job and it resulted in the further irritation of peace, not the protection of it.

Most of us, regardless of race, saw this for what it was. I hope the criminal justice system in America concurs.

But, as the grandson of a noble police chief, a true peace officer, and as a black man, I find it unsettling the blanket stereotypes being used by society to perpetuate violence and division.

Such stereotypes are the biproduct of a complete breakdown in our ability to create a platform for discussion. We must discover a goal, set forth objectives on how we as a society can achieve that goal together, and enhance our understanding of one another.

But the lack of understanding amongst humans is nothing new. Since our inception, there has been a gap in our collective perspectives prohibiting us from seeing the current state of our society through an empathetic lens. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

So where do we go from here?

I was recently introduced to a concept that explains what I have long perceived to be the biggest flaw we have as humans – our failure to mindfully listen.

To mindfully listen is “the practice of paying purposeful attention to the present moment, without making any judgements… to stop our running thoughts so we can hear the message being shared with us, and so the speaker can feel understood.”

I believe our failure to practice and adopt this concept is why we are where we are.

For years, I never truly understood the importance of mindful listening. I never thought of listening as a critical skill that should be taught in our schools and understood in the same way our society views subjects such as science or mathematics.

Listening is a skill critical to our understanding of the world around us, even more so in the techno-world of today. But many of us were never taught how to listen efficiently or effectively. Instead, we hear and while hearing think about how we are going to respond.

People are rightfully angry. There is not a moment in our short history as a nation where I can recall progress being made without the uncomfortable cloud of self-reflection hovering over. But we cannot let anger replace commonsense.

As Martin Luther King once said, “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

So as we move forward, I encourage all of us to think deeply about the importance of empathy and mindful listening.

As the old adage goes, God gave us one mouth and two ears so we will always listen twice as much as we speak.

When someone is speaking, let us not interrupt; let us listen.

When we speak, let us not speak with recklessness, but with thoughtful intention because what we speak may cause irreparable damage.

Let us seek truth to educate ourselves and others, not to confirm our own opinion.

And when we disagree with an opinion, let us ask questions as to the reasons why.

If we can accomplish this, we have made ourselves more effective listeners.

We have a responsibility to be better than we were yesterday. We all have a role to play in the future we want for ourselves. It is up to us.

I choose to believe that at the end of the day we are all just walking each other home. I would personally enjoy having a fruitful conversation with anyone willing to walk with me. We can grow together in this journey of life.

Brandon Batch is a former Odessan.

Odessa, TX

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