We Would Do Well To Listen

The conviction that we know others better than they know us—and that we may have insights about them they lack (but not vice versa) leads us to talk when we would do well to listen and to be less patient than we ought to be when others express the conviction that they are the ones who are being misunderstood or judged unfairly. The same convictions can make us reluctant to take advice from others who cannot know our private thoughts, feelings, interpretations of events, or motives, but all too willing to give advice to others based on our views of their past behavior, without adequate attention to their thoughts, feelings, interpretations, and motives.

“You Don’t Know Me But I Know You: The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight” by Pronin, Kruger, Savitsky, and Ross

World events over the last week have my head spinning. The Wall Street Journal claims “The U.S. is confronting its worst civil unrest in decades.” Like almost everything that happens these days, people are polarizing and drifting to a side.

There is a big problem in America: racial injustice.  We need to begin listening instead of reacting. When a movement called Black Lives Matter is formed, we would do well to listen. If we take the time to listen, we’ll hear about the injustice.

If we don’t take the time to listen, and use our illusion of asymmetric insight about the movement, we may come back with something like All Lives Matter.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with that statement by itself, by not listening we have done the equivalent of ignoring racial injustice and replaced it with something vague like “all of us suffer injustices.” It is like as if we run through a fundraiser for cancer, and pointed out “there are other diseases, too”.

What is worse is that we have created something that you can’t really argue with. Sure, all lives matter, but George Floyd was just killed. Instead of listening to the racial injustice in the world, we come back with All Lives Matter, and yet again, sweep the injustice under the carpet.

When Colin Kaepernick knelt at NFL football games four years ago in peaceful protest, we should have listened. We should have listened to the racial injustice that was going on in the world. Instead, we used our illusion of asymmetric insight about him and came to the conclusion that he was being unpatriotic and disgraceful. Sports Illustrated just yesterday requested that you imagine if he knelt today. Would we listen?

There is no excuse for the riots and looting. There is no excuse for the backlash against the police departments across the country at the expense of the few bad cops that exist. But I can’t help but think, what if we had listened four years ago?

We didn’t have to join the movement. We didn’t have to kneel with Colin. We didn’t have to agree with the way the message was being given. Maybe there are better ways, but were they better than the riots taking place now?

We’re nowhere near a solution, but I think we would do well by ourselves if we all started listening.

Featured photo by munshots on Unsplash

3 thoughts on “We Would Do Well To Listen

  1. All protestors need to realize not to use a method of protest that shows ‘disrespect’ to someone else. They will be more apt to have ‘listeners’ attention. Martin Luther King is a good example of ‘how’ to expose the wrongs of injustice. Again, though, the audience of listeners was not enough, but better than now.


    1. I think a lot of Jason’s point though is that if there hadn’t been riots, would be people be listening as much as they are? Colin Kaepernick did peacefully create a large conversation around police brutatily in the US, and it was dismissed. The message has been peacefully given plenty of other times as well (and MLK didn’t just do peaceful protests), and people have not listened.

      The responsibility is not on protesters to deliver the message in the way that will get white people to listen. It’s on white people to actually listen to the message, however it’s delivered.

      Liked by 1 person

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