Yesterday as the Casey Anthony trial’s decision was announced, Facebook and Twitter exploded. People in Florida were shouting on the streets and people all over the world were angrily pecking their keyboard like it owed them money. They all had the determined focus of being heard. Some people resorted to using all caps like Kanye West. Many people avoided actual words all together. They used emoticons and worse yet, some people typed out incomprehensible sounds that made me wish that there was an Urban Dictionary for onomatopoeia. The South Park townspeople came to mind. “Rabble, rabble! Rabble, rabble!”
While democracy has given everyone the right to be heard, people fail to consider whether they should be heard. The beauty of having so many ways to communicate is that we’re not isolated. We can quickly determine what other people’s opinions are. We can find like minded thinkers. We can determine if we’re part of the majority or the minority. All without voicing our own opinion. Listening doesn’t mean you have to be silent. It can have the opposite effect and make you more likely to be heard.
I’ve written previously how the social white noise can have a negative impact on one’s perspective. I also think when appropriately utilized it can improve a person’s perspective. In today’s knee jerk society, so many opinions are merely reactions. People allow their emotions to dictate their opinion and vent before they give themselves time to settle down.
From the beauty and power of language, people can incite emotions out of one another with mere words and phrases. Instead of formulating a fully fleshed out thought, their opinions tend to be a mix of reaction and buzz words that tries to get a similar reaction out of the listener. The problem with using words and phrases that incite an emotion out of people is that not everyone feels the same emotions as the speaker. They may feel the exact opposite emotion. Instead of getting the point across, all the opinion did was put someone with an opposing opinion in an excited state.
One can get more value out of their own words by listening. Listening gives a person time to process their reaction and the reaction of others. It gives a person time to create a well organized thought that doesn’t require buzz words to get the point across. When an opinion is a well organized thought, it doesn’t merely feed the fire of the person who agrees and doesn’t just anger the person who disagrees. A well organized thought forces consideration.
It gives credibility to the speaker. It also allows speaker’s opinion to be more accessible to a wider array of listeners. The only audience that is lost on a well formulated thought is the people who fully embrace emotional reactions as opinions and accuse others of sitting on the fence when they don’t take a hard emotional stance. These people don’t listen anyway, so there’s nothing really lost.
Beyond helping a person formulate a thought, listening builds an audience. When people know that you listen to them and they know you thoughtfully consider their own opinion, they will listen to you. That’s why politicians utilize town hall style meetings. People eventually stop listening to one sided speeches whether they agree or disagree, but when they get a chance to voice their own thought, suddenly they are a captive audience to the answer.
In a world where only the most extreme opinion pierces through the white noise, the best approach might not be to yell over the crowd but might be to make them your audience.