We have a neighbor who cannot hear without his hearing aids, or so we have been told. One of his favorite pasttimes, or so it seems to us, is to come out of his house and yell at someone for doing something he doesn’t like, and then turn around leave without letting you say anything, either to apologize or explain, or ask for forgiveness.
It took me awhile, but I realized finally that he never turned his hearing aids on. He never intended to allow any communication or discussion, no way for someone to create community or understanding with him. So when he comes out on a tirade if I get a chance I look at him, hopefully get him to look at me, and then say “hey Chuck, do you have your hearing aids on?” If he just looks at me blankly I tell everyone else around to just ignore him, as he is already ignoring us.
I think in much subtler ways, this is all-too-often what happens in most “communication”. One or both sides is not interested in anything the other has to say, which makes it a waste of effort for the other side to try and answer any criticism.
I had a heated written exchange with someone, observed by a whole team of people who were on the e-mails. She smeared me with innuendo and provided no facts to back anything up. Naturally she won the argument. But key to what I am talking about above, at one point she mentioned something I had done, and said she could only guess why I might have done it — then came up with some preposterous motivation for me. That prevented her readers from getting the wrong idea when they came to the part of the communication she was quoting to them, where I specifically stated my exact motivation and reasoning. No need to listen to a first person source when you can have the reporting commentary tell you the exact opposite — especially when that commentary fits your own biases and doesn’t challenge you to think or grow.
So why hash through all this? It isn’t fun for me to remember these examples, but they are a constant reminder to me that having ears, having hearing aids, does no good if you don’t turn them on, if you don’t engage your brain to understand. It may be painful to hear, it may be true or false, but it is always better to hear, to listen to your fellow man, than to ignore them.