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The Power of Authentic Listening

Fundamentally opposing views and values between Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, have never been as visceral as they are today. Fellow Americans who one disagrees with are immediately demonized and often “cancelled” in our now pervasive cancel culture.

A new 2021 program called “Bridging the Gap” has been initiated by several liberal and conservative colleges. The process and goal is “deep listening.” Authentic engagement in all humility and curiosity can tear down seemingly impenetrable walls. The program is based in part on the Bryan Stevenson book Just Mercy, whose premise is that people on death row are more than the worst thing they have ever done. An advocate writes:

And so, I would ask us for a moment to consider the application of that principle to these 75 million Americans who voted for Trump and the 81 million who voted for Biden. While many of us have been convinced by the wisdom that people on death row are better than their worst deed, we are still quick to condemn “those voters” as worse than their worst vote.

Genuine listening is challenging but fruitful:

Listening deeply means silencing that noise, listening not just with your ears but with every sense you’ve got, every cell in your body. It means listening to all that is said and unsaid, to the body language, the tone, the eye movement. It’s full-body listening. This type of listening builds trust, opens doors, and offers a path to deep discovery and a sacred connection that forms the basis for new understandings and otherwise unimaginable possibilities. Study after study shows in sector after sector—in medicine, marriage, real estate sales, and more—that true listening generates better results. And yet most of us go through our entire education without having learned how to do it.

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