As a former high school administrator, when a student came in to my office angry and belligerent, I’d ask them to breathe. And, after a quiet moment, “Tell me why you’re here.” Like a dam bursting, the emotion gushed forth. “Slow down, take another breath.” When the story had unfolded, I’d question, “Is there anything else?” Frustration and anger ebbed once he or she felt heard. Active listening opened the door to understanding.

In this age of social media, direct contact with each other has diminished. We’re focused on our own point of view and mock those who do not share it. We no longer ask questions or imagine through what lenses others may view the world. We don’t care. With great change comes great fear, and we are in the midst of great change worldwide.

The door to understanding unlocks with our willingness to listen compassionately. Connection with one another mitigates fear. Our forefathers disagreed vehemently yet respected each other enough to listen to another point of view. “No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from inside.” Marilyn Ferguson.

Nothing is black or white. Share a conversation face to face. Ask questions and listen to understand. We learn far more though listening than we do through talking.