Reflection: The Importance of Listening

This is a reflection written by Kate Seaman to mark World Listening Day on the 21st of October 2016. 

Everybody’s talkin at me, I can’t hear a word they’re saying

Information Overload

As I watched the final presidential debate on Wednesday, following along with the conversations on Twitter and Facebook, I realized that the constant flow of information makes it harder to focus on what is important. The candidates were speaking directly to the American public but I am not sure how much anyone was really listening. Instead everyone is focused on hearing what they want to hear, looking for the statements that either inspire them or make them angry.

Political Divides

It seems that in today’s political climate the two parties have lost the ability to listen to one another, to actually hear what each side is arguing for, and to compromise based on the interests and good of the broader public. This is not only problematic in terms of this election cycle, but also in terms of the long-term effects this will have on the structure of society within the country.


The divides created can be seen on a daily basis, between different religions, races and genders. They can be seen in a society, where it is acceptable for a presidential candidate to denigrate women, to reduce them to objects and to dismiss their calls for him to accept responsibility for his actions. Where women are afraid to speak up in case they are further attacked. In a society where Black men and women live in constant fear that if they are stopped by a police officer they risk their lives. In a society where freedom of religion is under threat, and deportation of specific religious groups is proposed as a solution to keep the country safe.

The Danger of Fear

In a society where nobody listens to each other, where nobody truly hears and experiences the stories from the other sides of the divides, everybody ends up living in fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of what might happen next, fear of the future. Being afraid is no way to live life, and fear is not conducive to creating the kind of society in which everyone hopes to live.

In order to remove fear listening to each other becomes even more important, because if you don’t hear the why then you can’t understand the how.

About the Author: 

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-1-49-53-pmKate Seaman is the Assistant Director to the Bahá’í Chair for World Peace where she supports the research activities of the Chair. Kate is interested in understanding normative changes at the global level and how these changes impact on the creation of peace.

For more information about Kate: Twitter.

Photo Credit: Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip June 30 2010 available here.

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