Writing Week Day #4: Listen Large

ear trumpet

Communication these days happens at the speed of thought which means that exchanges of ideas that would once take laborious writing, printing, and distribution can now happen with the push of a few keys. It’s important to remember these days that any writing (even the traditional dead tree kind) is now just one part of a larger conversation and like any good conversation half of it should be spent listening and giving the other person permission to talk.

This may come as a shock but I am not the end-all of knowledge on any given topic. A bigger shock may be that neither are you. The world is a big place and a lot of it is online these days. Many, many voices have something to contribute.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in the last five years of writing SFL:

1. Expect some percentage of people to misunderstand you, disagree with you, and outright despise you. There are a few in every crowd.

2. Anticipate that some fights are not worth having. Don’t be this guy.

3. Having done 1 and 2, go ahead and invite both commentary and criticism. Just put it out there that you want to listen. Asking people to fix what they think you got wrong with your ideas is the fastest way to start a conversation.

4. Lastly, don’t let it get you down. If your point is thoughtful and your writing is solid more people than not will appreciate your effort — even if they disagree.

So say your piece. Make your point. Then prepare to listen large once you’ve started the conversation.

29 thoughts on “Writing Week Day #4: Listen Large”

  1. I enjoy an honest conversation. But too often people can’t stay calm; either they rant, uninterested in any give-and-take in the conversation, or they start name-calling. It’s impossible to have a real conversation with someone who puts you in a box and then won’t stop yelling long enough to listen to your reasons why that box doesn’t actually define you.

    1. What’s worse is when people refuse to listen to you. A close second is when they twist what you say.

  2. My problem is I take hours to construct my brilliant ideas, then do a cursory scan of any feedback to see how I can use others’ comments to help me reiterate my brilliant ideas.

  3. Reading comprehension is a required skill for writing on an interactive forum as well. Many is the time that I read only what I was looking to see in order to frame my response. How often I have read something, having already formulated my response, so that what I read fit the reply I was about to give??? Cart<horse…

    Anyone else ever done that?
    Only me?
    Well that figures… *sigh*

    1. Of course we do have access to those various faces at the bottom of the page.

      Anyway, what emotions are those mean looking, red eyed faces supposed to convey, and are those pointy things at the tops of their heads supposed to be horns or ears?

  4. Way back when I subscribed to the local paper, one of my favorite columns on the op-ed page was written by a man I usually disagreed with. The reason I enjoyed his column was that his arguments were well thought out and reasoned. He rarely changed my views on a topic, and often his basic premise was flawed, but at least I knew where he was coming from. Most pieces on the editorial page remind me of a couple of nationally syndicated radio hosts. I may agree with them but their boorish behavior and attitude is a turn-off.

    The internet, by the way, is not why I allowed my subscription to lapse. I miss taking the paper, but refuse to pay for the poor quality brought by the last few editors. I got tired of all the grammar corrections I was making as I read the articles. That, and I would turn to page three only to find the continuation of an article was nowhere to be found.

    1. It’s fashionable to blame the death of paper journalism on the Internet – there’s even truth to the charge, since the papers have always depended upon advertising revenue, and that money’s not being spent – but the general decline in quality, standards, and content has slowly but surely killed the newspapers. I think only some of it can be laid at the feet of revenue shortfall.

  5. “Listen Large” is good advice.


    I think I do that most of the time. Not always, though. In a blog environment, that would be essential.

    1. Blogs, bulletin boards, USENET, chats/chatrooms: all of these electronic communication methods combine the immediacy of face-to-face contact with the information paucity of the written word. Why paucity? Because it’s so easy to misunderstand one another. We don’t explain well, because of the transience and immediacy, but we lack all the conversational context we need to connect. Even Skype and other video-chat channels are deceptively thin methods of communication. We can improve things by listening.

      1. The greatest problem of our chosen outlet is the lack of inflection, tone, and other no-verbal clues that one gets with personal verbal conversation.
        Type written is cold at times with no personality until you have been reading someone long enough to know whether they are BS-ing or passionate about the topic at hand. (or passionately BS-ing)

        1. Yes, that’s the issue. I would say that even people you know well can misunderstand a forum post. The win with familiarity is the willingness to give the poster a second look/chance.

  6. ♫ I’m just a soul whose intentions are good…
    Oh Lord, Please don’t let me be misunderstood ♫

    1. That does not pass music check.
      Demerits will be issued at the next meeting of the Discipline Committe.

  7. A point well made. We teach children how to speak their minds. Rarely are they taught to listen. Listening is an underrated skill that is essential for any relationship.

  8. One of the problems with #3 in today’s society is that having an intellectual discourse on an issue has devolved into point/counter-point with neither side really listening to the other. If one’s points have true merit, they will stand up to scrutiny.

  9. Part of the problem may also be that we jump to conclusions regarding what we think other people believe without asking questions or giving them the opportunity to explain themselves.

    Another problem, certainly in my case, is not being open to the possibility that we just might be wrong about something. Wasn’t it Mark Twain who said something like, “The problem isn’t what we don’t know, the problem is the things we know that just ain’t so.”

Comments are closed.