I hate politics. To me, it’s an adult popularity contest with individuals who are so removed from the happenings of people in “real” life that I’m sad to say I rarely pay attention to what’s going on. Any discussion with others about the topic rarely ends well and I refrain from discussing it with people pretty much at all costs.
Yesterday though, like many other people, I watched the deliberations and questioning of the Supreme Court judge nominee, Brett #Kavanaugh and one of his accusers Dr. Christine Blasey #Ford. Oftentimes I’ve refrained from listening to government-related proceedings but yesterday I was more curious than before. My intent going in was to listen as objectively as I could and not judge either side.
Overall, beyond the incessant standing on soapboxes, repetitive need to rephrase information over and over again, and over talking of each other, I learned a few things. Please note I have no dog in this race. I'm still conflicted on the testimony presented (unfortunately yet another "he said/she said" case) and I’m not necessarily affiliated with any political party (few politicians on either side seem to be honest nowadays). I listened truly to understand the perspective of both sides, attempting to put my own perspective on the issue aside. Instead I chose to come from a place of observing how emotions can affect the message one intends to communicate.
The inability to manage your emotions can affect your message
We’ve all had moments where we may have reacted emotionally to someone’s actions or statements. I know in my own moments of “emotional explosions” I’ve lacked the ability to think rationally and constructively communicate and express how I felt. Instead, I imagine my reaction to the recipient of such “emotional expression” was not an understanding of where I was coming from but more of a reaction to what I was saying and/or doing.
Yesterday's proceedings appeared to be no different. Kavanaugh’s first few minutes from his speech were met with an almost yelling pitch to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Although it sounded like a lot of pent up anger from the last few weeks, looking at others’ responses on social media and in the courtroom, it appeared to come off to many people as unbecoming and not in a good light. My own response was focused on why he was yelling and I could not tell you what he said those first few minutes. I didn’t start to actually listen to his words until he seemed to relax, calm down, and even cry when speaking about his upbringing and family.
On the contrary, Dr. Ford was very quiet, polite, and "terrified" in her own words of even being in the building. It was clear she was out of her element and did not want to be there. Her tone was meek and even trembling at times, which made me listen with more intent to the words she was saying. It appeared others within the room were doing the same thing.
Not listening to others displays lack of empathy and understanding
During Dr. Ford’s questioning, the atmosphere was one of calmness and sympathy. Reasons for this could be discussed in length in another post but overall, committee members were respectfully, empathetic and deliberate in their questions as Dr. Ford was responding to them. Each party speaking, for the most part, led a conversation with one person speaking, another person listening, as they took turns in a typical conversation.
On the contrary, as questioning begun, both Mr. Kavanaugh and particular committee members over talked each other, not listening to what the other had to say but, instead focused on what THEY wanted to say and get out. At times, it didn’t even appear as though they had questions but wanted the time to talk about what they wanted to talk about, focusing on themselves instead of the topic at hand.
In general, simply trying to get your message across works well to say what YOU want to say, but leaves little time or respect for the other party to say what they want to say. If you want to be heard, you must listen to what someone else has to say. It’s simply a matter of respect. This appeared to be minimal as the afternoon wore on yesterday.
Prior to yesterday, I thought settings in a courtroom or judicial capacity was one that was supposed to be somewhat objective, thorough and organized. Instead, however, I learned that, regardless of the setting we’re all humans and when pressed, react as such. The ability to manage one’s emotions in appropriate settings can be very impactful for a number of reasons.
1. You can think more rationally and, as a result, communicate more effectively – Thinking before you react and speak, even if it’s five seconds, can allow you a moment to collect your thoughts and speak in a way that is understood and expressed more effectively. This can also lead to a calmer discussion.
2. Listening to others can gain respect from them – In general, everyone just wants to be heard. Situations can de-escalate rather quickly if participating parties just listen to each other. It shows courtesy and respect to all involved, which can help facilitate the discussion and interaction better.
3. Understanding where others come from can change your perspective and your own thinking – Attempting to understand where others are coming from by listening and digesting what they are saying is huge to gaining insight on others’ perspectives. Note, this is NOT to say that you AGREE with what someone says but you UNDERSTAND what they are saying. Sometimes agreeing to disagree may be the conclusion of the interaction and that’s okay! As long as both parties have made an attempt to understand each other’s perspectives.
Overall, the circus that has surrounded the content of yesterday's deliberations and the last couple weeks are disturbing. It seems, as a society, that we don’t take the time to listen to each other and, instead, gather our own facts (true or not), self-validate our own opinions, and refuse to listen to what anyone has to say; particularly those that think differently.
The topic of sexual harassment and assault is sensitive in its own right and it’s difficult to decipher in the #metoo movement with thousands of stories both deemed true and rightfully so, with some deemed untrue to determine what’s real or not. I sympathize with those who have dealt with any such issues and completely understand why, in this toxic environment, coming forward may or may not be an option. I also empathize with those who have been wrongfully accused and are trying their best to clear their names of something they didn’t do but has yet ruined their lives.
I’m uncertain how the happenings of the last few days will turn out a week or two from now but I hope, if anything, we as a people can be open to discussion and understanding rather than ridiculing and name calling. Our society needs a change for the better, not for the worse.