Question: Do you know how to listen?

One of the most difficult parts of this job is writing the My Turn piece every six weeks or so. Why, you may ask? Everybody has an opinion.

You would be absolutely and unequivocally correct. Everyone does have an opinion and like the old saying that compares them to a certain part of the human anatomy, “They all stink” and as on occasion a reader will remind me, that includes mine.

I have always tried to keep my opinion pieces positive and non-controversial, but try as I may, there are always a couple of folks out there who succeed in reading ideas in that I have never even thought of. I have asked friends and family for ideas about subjects I might consider for this section. There have been some very interesting ideas offered up that reflect some of the concerns that are foremost on their minds at the time. One very close friend mentioned the changes in our community as to safety and trust.

“I remember when we used to leave the door to our house unlocked when we left and the keys to our car were in the ignition over night,” she said.

“No way I would consider doing that today,” she added.

A neighbor suggested I write about the dangers of all the unsupervised kids (elementary age) that are “tearing around town on their bikes. No helmets, no regard for traffic or any vehicle laws.”

“Where are the parents? You can be sure they will be front and center with a lawsuit if any of their children get hurt.”

At the post office, I was approached by a gentleman who wanted me to sign a petition against allowing helicopters to be considered as farm/ranch equipment so they can land wherever they want. When I explained that would not be a good idea for me because I worked for the paper, it was suggested I could use it as an opinion topic. How about the raises the county board of supervisors are discussing for some of the elected county positions? The way it was presented to me, “Can you imagine even considering giving huge raises to people in a county that has such a budget shortfall?”

Please don’t get me wrong, these are all valid subjects and I’m sure there are many that agree with the sentiments of the aforementioned statements and many who disagree. The point for me is that to discuss any of these topics a person would ultimately have to criticize the thinking of the other point of view. I hope I am never so vain as to think I have a patent on “being right” so I have always tried to offer an opinion only as a possible alternative to be considered. In this day and age of increased intolerance, consider these two ideas as possible alternative approaches to others’ opinions.

Try listening to people with the goal of understanding their view, not just to rebut what they have said.

Try spending more time finding solutions to perceived problems and less time complaining about them. Complaining very seldom solves anything.

The listening part can lead to the learning that few things in life are black or white and once you learn all the facts you are better equipped to find a solution. Two-way communication can be a productive and useful tool for communities.

One-way communication, often referred to as propaganda, seldom serves anyone except the issuer and ultimately not even them.