Message to Self: More Listening, Less Talking

June 8, 2020

This Weekly is not a place for politics, nor is the present moment a particularly good time for politics which have a party association. This is a time for people – and I cannot let the events of the last couple of weeks go without comment.

As we all have seen, the reaction to the brutal killing of George Floyd has laid bare fears, inequities and justified resentment in our society. Those feelings have been picked up and shared in other countries, particularly in Europe. Many of the emotions have long been buried or unspoken in public arenas. At the very least, all need to be aired as part of a more open, empathetic and respectful dialogue. I feel that those who do not experience the issues of concern should mostly listen and seek to obtain a better understanding of the feelings and experiences of those who do. Many in our community still need more tangible action to move our country closer to our declared belief that we are all created equal, and have unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Doing nothing does not feel like a very good or appropriate option but what can we do? Maybe the difficulty in answering that question is partly because we instinctively believe that the impact of our actions must be “big.” This can often lead to no action at all. I believe that many of the “big” changes needed can only be made through small steps taken by a lot of people. Taken together such changes will make a difference.

So, what are the small changes I have in mind for me? My very first step must be to become more sensitive and committed to sharing openly with family, friends, and colleagues, with a heavy focus on listening. The very fact that I did not see the current reaction coming confirms I have been out of touch. In simple terms my strategy will be to listen more and talk less. And this type of listening should not wait for comments but must be active in providing opportunities for others to share experiences. The dialogue will only be worthwhile if it is truly accompanied by a desire to understand the perspectives of others. I know that some of these may be uncomfortable to hear, some will change my view of the world, and many will be outside of my own personal experience.

Beyond the immediate, there are other aspects of my life where I must review and rethink my approach. Do I stand up when injustice occurs? Do I use my responsibilities at work in a way which helps? Is my non-profit involvement really directed to help those who need support the most?

All these issues are personal. I am sure that if I am to have any positive impact I must start by obtaining a better understanding of the experiences and perspectives of others. I doubt that I am alone.

Richard Rushton