The great philosopher Epiticus once said, “We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” This idiom is as applicable today as it was when it was originally said almost 2,000 years ago. Listening to – and understanding – others’ opinions is a crucial aspect of functioning democracy. While this seems like a simple task, when confronted by those who do not share your political views, it can be difficult to listen or even try to analyze what they are saying. In these moments it is easier to dismiss another’s perspective and move on. However, in my experience, I have found that the benefits of listening to others far outweigh the negatives.
When I scroll through social media I frequently encounter political (and non-political) opinions that baffle me. I often quickly jump to disagree with them and prove why they are wrong and I am correct. Recently, as I was about to reply to a social media comment, I stopped to think. I realized that merely responding to someone’s comment wouldn’t necessarily sway that person’s opinion and I would lose an opportunity for personal growth. Following this instance, a few things became clear to me.
“We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epiticus
I realized that change cannot truly occur until we try to understand what another person believes. If we ignore the context of their argument, how can we possibly expect to change their minds? I also learned that there is a distinction between simply hearing what another person says and truly listening to their argument. I often respond to opinions, like those mentioned previously, with outrage instead of analyzing and understanding their argument. Now, this doesn’t mean you must change your mind or agree with the other person. However, I do believe it can be beneficial to listen to someone else’s point of view, whether political or otherwise. When we listen to the opinions of others we have an opportunity for personal growth because we allow ourselves to open up our minds to the story that lies beneath the opinion.
Truly listening to others’ stories creates a deeper human connection, an integral step towards a more perfect democracy. Through social media, I have learned the importance of actively listening to the opinions of others and already begun implementing these tactics in my own life. I encourage you – the reader – to fully listen to the opinions of others, no matter how much you disagree with them. Perhaps you may even learn something new. And if that’s not the case, then your previously held belief will be better able to stand up to scrutiny, making it easier to effectively dismantle their argument. If the opinion is outrageous and truly worthy of a challenge, prevent yourself from responding with outrage and attempt to (respectfully) strike up a conversation. In my experience, this has been a more effective tactic in changing the minds of others.
Simon Bank is a rising 9th grader at the Geffen Academy and summer intern at the Jewish Center for Justice.