Disagreeing is difficult. Most of us are likely to respond with scoffing. A pre-emptive mocking. A smidge of scorn. That frees us from the tension of presenting our difference because we simply disregard the other’s point of view.

We have to be able to tolerate the charge we experience when we feel our dissent rising.

How to temper that rising energy with the patience required to listen to an opposing point of view, and without building up our counter argument as we listen. It is an acquired skill to truly entertain the other’s perspective. Before feeling my dismissal, I have been trying to ask myself – “Could this also be true? Is there something here I am blind to? Perhaps I’m not quite following how they see it”.

And I know this isn’t my long suit. While I am not usually locked and loaded, I am a quick thinker, and like most of us, conditioned into conviction regarding my perspective. Stepping into someone else’s shoes to see how their experience creates their meaning requires a kind of monk-like non-reactivity and patience that I still can only aspire to. Long-winded political correctness that seems clunky and contrived makes me cringe. But we all have to get better at this.

We have to have enough self-support to listen. Especially, to listen across difference. Only when we have mastered the art of meeting across difference can we truly be in conversation. After learning how to listen with our full attention then we can freely share with another. Provided the other person has also learned to listen. Cultivating a stance of curiosity and enquiry.

We live in the age of the casual comment. Community texting means that we can offer our contempt and criticism without having to stand behind what we are saying, without having to stand up for what we truly believe, or stand within the differentiation happening in that moment.

We need to be both courageous and highly skilled to do this in person. Browbeating someone to force them to be compliant with your own opinions is a very hollow victory.  Being open to someone else’s point of view is challenging, especially when it is about something you are deeply passionate about. Being willing to listen when someone had a similar life experience to you but had a very different inner experience requires generous acceptance.  Or most challenging of all, when their opinion is about you. Listening to someone’s perception of you when it doesn’t feel true to you asks for enormous grace and patience.

I know this stuff is really hard. Our habits to defend what we believe are laid down firmly and learned very early, and our biological defence systems when we feel threatened are powerful motivators for protective action.

“If only we could listen with the same passion with which we desire to be heard.” Harriet Lerner.

I’m keeping this short, to give you lots of space to disagree.

Zjamal Xanitha

If you want more support to cope with relating with others when you think and feel differently, why not come to therapy. It can really change your life! If the tension and difficulty of listening happens in your primary relationship, come with your partner to Couples Therapy and learn to listen to each other with space, time, containment and respect.