[personal profile] wingedbeast
Yes, I harp on listening skills quite a bit. It turns out more complex a concept than the initial focus on "listen". It has parts. It involves listening to what's being said, not over-relying upon a pre-defined script or formula, keeping context, both social and specific, in mind. It also involves being ready to hear what you don't expect to hear.

By example, some years back, in a conversation with a conservative Christian, I made the point of an issue I took with Christianity. (Christianity as I saw it at the time, to be honest. Though, my view of Christianity did, in case, match up with that of the Christian with whom I was discussing.) I took issue with a moral theory that reduced morality to rules that existed for the sake of rules. This, I felt, took all matter of actually caring about people out of issue of morality, leaving just a set of rules to be adhered to just because that's how one gets closer to "good".

The response had nothing to do with any defense of this model of morality or denial that this model represented (their version of) Christianity. The response the other person had was to tell me that this told them that I was an atheist because I resented being told to follow rules. That was a common "explanation" of atheism, back then, one that, these days, is more often worded "atheists really believe, but just want to sin without consequence".

In another example, I made the case to a different Christian that I am, in fact, less insulting of the Christian God than the Christian in question. It was a case of "Evil Jesus"*, wherein they felt that God would not only create Hell, but send people there for not being Creationist. I said that, were I God, I knew which, between believing me non-existent or believing me such a person, I'd rather have people believe of me.

The Christian in question responded that I was obviously claiming the authority of God.

You could make the case that either of these is a deliberate misinterpretation, made for the purpose of trolling more than conversing. And, in either example, you might be right. And, you might be wrong. You might be wrong because this happens on multiple levels. You expect to hear something, so, when something even close comes along, you hear that, rather than what is being said.

In a more obvious case of earnestly not hearing what is said, I'll go to yet a third example. The matter of distinguishing between who is and is not a "true Christian". It's never helpful in this conversation. I made the point that this could be useful among Christians, but never between Christians and non-Christians. The response I got was... well, the responder thought they agreed. They agreed that some people who believe they are Christians aren't really Christian.

When you do that, you make conversation harder. You make your ability to communicate any potential truth to your position more difficult because you make it clear how easily you can believe a lie when the truth stares you in the face. And, that's on the generous interpretation that someone isn't deliberately trolling.

Trusting you in a conversation requires trusting not only that you are honest, but that you are capable of acknowledging a reality put before you that does not conform to your expectation.

If it's not what I say but what you hear, it becomes very difficult to say anything to someone unprepared to hear.

* http://wingedbeast.dreamwidth.org/5403.html

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