Thursday, October 29, 2009

talking past each other

A common phenomenon in theological circles as well as in other spheres, such as political, happens when two or more people are discussing an issue on which they to some degree don't see eye to eye, is the problem of talking past each other. In other words one or each supposes that the other believes such and such, so has the response ready. But the other becomes convinced that they are being misunderstood or not understood precisely as to what they're saying. And it goes on.

The answer to this is dialogue. The kind of give and take that insists on hearing each other out. Come to think of it, this can be quite important in a marriage. Sometimes the spouses are at logger heads with each other. But what about giving each a time, a set time, to share with no interruptions? And then the other can reply with no interruptions, and back and forth.

Humans will never agree on everything, and we carry our own perspectives into each matter. But we have to remember that even from those we disagree with, we can learn. That God may speak to us through them in some way. We need to be open.

In order to help others we must learn to listen well. To listen not with the idea of gathering an answer, but with the goal of understanding fully the other. And with no intention of an immediate reply. Indeed being willing to forego any such reply, at least at the time.

What have you learned in regard to this? Or any thoughts?


Diane said...


I've learned to better absorb the shock when someone says something I find horrifying, especially on the religion front, and rather than reacting or giving my opinion right away, to step back, listen and love. But it's a work in process. But people, I've learned, including myself, are so injured.

Ted M. Gossard said...


Yes, words do bless and they curse, they destroy and they heal.

Yes, I think I'm much better at just trying to take in what another is saying. Before I was prone to interrupt and not even let another finish, thinking I had the solution for them, but as one gets older, one realizes more and more the falsity of any such thought.