Listening, Erich Fromm argues, is “is an art like the understanding of poetry” and, like any art, has its own rules and norms. Drawing on his half-century practice as a therapist, Fromm offers six such guidelines for mastering the art of unselfish understanding:
- The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener.
- Nothing of importance must be on his [her] mind, he [she] must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
- He [she] must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
- He [she] must be endowed with a capacity for empathy with another person and strong enough to feel the experience of the other as if it were his [her] own.
- The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love him [her] — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to him [her] and of overcoming the fear of losing oneself.
- Understanding and loving are inseparable. If they are separate, it is a cerebral process and the door to essential understanding remains closed.
Resources for Dialogue between people with different points of view
- Ask Three Questions
- Better Conversations, A Starter Guide
- Conversations that model civil dialogue
- You may also find inspiration on the website/podcast On Being
- Conversation Guide
- Recorded conversations between groups of people, half of whom are conservative and half progressive.
Two websites that pair people “on different sides of the aisle”
- Hi From the Other Side – Free, but there may be a waiting list to get matched.
- Red Plus Blue – pairs up people of different political persuasions to be pen pals (actual pen pals, with pens, not e-mail). They do charge a fee.
“Better Angels” – works toward unity in this country. They want to help people “go beyond polarization and beyond compromise, toward a higher synthesis that reflects shared values and incorporates what is valid and useful on both sides.”
The heart of dialogue is listening. This book takes you step by step on a journey into good listening: The Sacred Art of Listening, by Kay Lindahl