On the Necessity of Listening to Those You Don’t Agree With…

hand holding american flag and sparkler

The other night I decided to do something that was uncomfortable by listening to a political figure I disagree with on mostly everything. This person’s identity is irrelevant; what is relevant is whether or not we – leaders – are willing to listen to those we disagree with?

In business, livelihoods depend on people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs being able to work together.  For 99% of us, there is no “bail out” to fall back on if we can’t get along with those with whom we disagree. While the government can hit a stalemate and just shut down, businesses can’t do that without turning the lights off and sending people home. Out of self-preservation we have to find a way to work with other people, regardless of our differences.

Of course we can still blow it. I’m sure I am not the only one who can think of a project that never saw the light because of two warring factions in the supply chain. It was childish, and everyone lost because of it. But thankfully, this is not the norm.

The norm, at least from my vantage point, is diverse people coming together to make things happen. This always begins with listening and understanding the views of others.

Are we open to listening to the other? What about changing our minds on a topic? Back to the political example above again: Considering that I genuinely want the best for our country, I routinely ask myself the following questions:

1. Am I rooting for or against this person, even at the expense of the country?

2. Do I wish this person well? Really?

3. Am I open to the possibility that my view is wrong, and their view is right?

Answered honestly, these questions help me maintain perspective when listening to someone with different views. They’re also a litmus test for where my heart is. For if I am truly seeking the ill-will of others, I not only have a problem much larger than can be addressed here, but I also am not going to listen to them at all!

To be sure, this is often very uncomfortable.

But, the goal is not comfort…

Or to be right.

The goal is to get things done.

To keep the lights on.

Are you willing to get a little uncomfortable in order to make it happen?