Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content guy, bestselling author

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Greater understanding: This one question will help you become a better listener

Courtesy RSA Films

Courtesy RSA Films

Humans — either insecure or work-in-progress ones, myself very much included — often combat ignorance with ignorance. They fight prejudice with prejudice. They hypocritcaly label others as bigoted before crushing their own intolerance.

This is why the world can’t all get along. 

But an online class by Mircea Samoila on how to reawaken our listening skills is helping me start with the man in the mirror.

“We are born listeners,” Samoila asserts, noting that we do little more than listening and rapid learning in our first two years of life. “I believe it’s an ability we have never lost, only forgotten,” he teaches.

Although I’m only halfway through his 10-day course, I felt empowered today after reading an easy trick for better understanding. When confronted with a prejudiced, hurtful, or uniformed remark, Samoila advises to ask the following question instead of rapidly judging the offender: “What makes you say that?” or “What life experience has led you to that conclusion?”

What an elegant attempt to stamp out ignorance. After all, everyone wants to be understood, even if we don’t agree with them. The closer we get to understanding, the closer we get to harmony.

Granted, flippant offenders will likely never react in a helpful way to the above question. But at least the act gives understanding a chance.

And that’s just beautiful—as are these profound quotes on the subject:

  • “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”—Ernest Hemingway
  • “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”—Chinese proverb