Do you ever stop and listen to the world around you? I do, and often. I (mostly) like many of the sounds I’m hearing, particularly when I’m sitting in tranquil and rural surroundings, but far less when it’s the constant hubbub of the city. Or, that almost constant conflict in the verbal exchanges of people, particularly (but not exclusively) when it comes to how those people communicate on social media…
However; I’m not talking about the natural world here, or even suggesting a quick spot of mindfulness, which is undoubtedly nearly always useful.
After all, it seams to me at least that this is the place where most people actually choose to communicate with each other today. Too often much of the conversation is both adversarial and steeped in conflict. And the social-media industry, often fuelled by a decisive and emotive MSM input, has a tendency to compound the problem.
Many in our society appear to be increasingly less able to ‘effectively’ communicate with other human beings, at least not without anger. This is particularly the case when the communications process is devoid of any verbal, non-verbal and interpersonal factors. Additionally and importantly, many of us aren’t very good with our ‘effective’ listening skills.
If we are hearing things that we don’t like, don’t agree with, or challenge our own, often entrenched thoughts or beliefs, this usually has a tendency to make us feel uncomfortable, perhaps even under attack. But too often it would seem, this discomfort is also presented with and under a cloak of anger… the conflict aspect of our inherent fight or flight response.
The most basic of human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. (Dr. Ralph G. Nichols)
Too often, we are less than concerned with any attempts to provide some conflict resolution, for these types of situations. Thankfully, I do have that ability for walking away and forgetting the drama… not the important skill possessed by everyone it would appear.
Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. (Buddha)
These conflict problems play out with inane regularity but, as with people watching, often seen by some as one of Harry Potter‘s incomprehensible Dark-Arts, and by listening to people during their interactions (usually without their knowledge), we can pick up on some useful human behaviours, characteristics and idiosyncrasies. But, if/when you’re doing this, always try to do it surreptitiously.
In general, people usually aren’t too enamoured about strangers eavesdropping on their conversations… unless they’re actually trying to court attention (with controversy) that is.
I’m sure we can all site examples of those types of conversations. The ones that contain opinions, so often dressed as ‘news’ or fact, which are clearly designed to purely attract lucrative discourse, or controversy. Some discourse may be friendly banter, between regular advisories however; to often even friends are sadly becoming enemies during their adversarial contact.
To accuse others for one’s own misfortune is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete. (Epictetus)
There are some social-media ‘influencers’ who profess to be friendly orators but who actually revel in your angst. These are the people striving to ‘earn’ their next 20K of ‘new followers’ for their (monetised) social media accounts. Or often, their self-indulgence simply justifies their levels of self-belief about their ‘worth’ in providing ‘opinion’ for unquestioning consumption, by their adoring public. In short, they love the sound of their own voice… Donald Trump, Piers Morgan, Katie Hopkins, George Galloway and Owen Jones, to name but a few well=known examples of that ilk.
The most worrying part of this whole process (for me) is; too many people are incapable of looking beyond the often mischievous rhetoric (or don’t even care). And, those who ‘shout’ their ‘acidic’ opinions, which are often laced with vitriolic verbal abuse, care little for the impacts on our wider society.
Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. (Mark Twain)
But, having a quick ‘nosy’ into the content (and tone) of other people’s conversations, both digitally and physically, can be a useful process. It can help to provide us with a useful social barometer. That said, I’m usually a little surprised when I hear people say “I don’t do that!” Really? Our society appears to thrive, both socially and commercially, on people knowing about everyone else’s business.
The commercial owner’s of our social media platforms do it all the time. How else do you think they ‘know’ what you’re thinking, or measure their success in ‘predicting’ our personal preferences. We (usually) don’t consider those facts yet, we apparently get all concerned about those people who choose to listen to other people around them. Perhaps our historic human propensity for gossip is in decline? I tend to doubt that.
That age-old problem of people engaging their mouth (or keyboard) before their brains hasn’t benefited from any visible decline though. But now and too often, there appears to be a growing cohort of people who suffer from their own blinkered and constrained thinking.
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. (Epictetus)
Many of our personal thoughts can get knotted-up in our inability to think freely, thanks (in part) to the pressures of political correctness. And/or those personal concerns about how our peers might react to what we say. But, many of our thoughts actually lack any originality.
Increasingly, our views and beliefs are little more than carbon copies of those which are constantly ‘broadcast’ by others… the words and phrases of our loudest and most ‘influential’ megaphones on social media. All of which is compounded by a mainstream media, with commercial, rather than journalistic interests in play
But the ‘noise’ isn’t peculiar or exclusive to those mischievous doyens of social media. No, we all have a tendency towards sharing our views with others. And that’s fine, when you have the capability to understand; your viewpoint is just an opinion, all be it a strong one that you’re probably passionate about.
However, is your opinion or belief based on facts? Is it actually yours to share? Did you develop it from some ‘time-served’ effective listening? Did you research your supposition prior to delivering your theory to others? Was your particular thesis developed from sound, adequate and well-informed cognition and importantly, how prepared are you for your thinking to be subject to robust challenge?
Too often people’s ‘passionate’ beliefs actually belong to somebody else. They are found and developed within our own digital echo-chambers of confusion. And often with little or no cognizance of the events in history or factual content. Social media platforms (intentionally) support and promote our individual beliefs and ideologies.
It seems to me that our society is increasingly inhabited by a growing cohort of people with opinions wrapped up in ultracrepidarianism. It is also a pity that some are often acutely impacted by the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Perhaps if more people applied epistemophilia prior to espousing their opinions our society would be better served. These types need to be reminded; it is always good to try and be a little more philomathic – before implying that you might be a [self-appointed] Professor of societal issues.
Remember; a great deal of our thoughts (and opinions) are formulated with cognitive bias. We need to be prepared to have our thoughts or opinions challenged. We need to build the personal capability to alter or change our beliefs, regardless of who deeply entrenched they may be. Unless your espoused beliefs align with your personal traits, the ones that you display and are seen by others… many of those ‘opinions’ are simply regurgitated crap, and not worth listening to!
Others might still view your opinion as crap but that’s OK, that is their right – you cam lead horses to water but you can’t make them drink – regardless of agreement or disagreement, an opinion is just that… an opinion. If you don’t want yours to be challenged, don’t shout about them. Be true to yourself, be kind to others and enjoy your day!