I slide into the passenger seat of my husband’s SUV and begin my routine. First, I buckle my seatbelt. Then as he turns the key in the ignition I turn the radio station to one I like better than the loud-heavy-I-need-anger-management-classes style he prefers. We both still laugh every time I do it. After being married for fifteen years we’re okay with being different.
That little scenario came up in a conversation he and I recently had about how to listen to those who are different than us. “I feel like every person is their own radio station,” I said, “When someone has a station similar to yours it’s easy to listen to them. But when it’s totally different it can be a challenge.”
We then speculated on what our radio stations would be like. We decided with grins that mine would be something awesomely cheesy like, “WholeHeart 101 FM” and his would be the counterpart, “ThinkWithYourHead 88.1 FM.” Through the years we’ve learned to “tune in” to each other (and perhaps have even created a station of our own) but that has taken a lot of time, practice, and patience.
We don’t always get the luxury of spending years learning to listen well to someone else. So we need another strategy for other relationships in our lives. As he and I talked through this topic some more we came up with this:
First, we need to remember that the other person simply has a different radio station than us. It’s a good thing that there is more than one option when we flip through the frequencies. There’s a place for every style — rock, country, easy listening. Just because we don’t prefer it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist.
When we listen to someone who’s different than us, it’s important to value rather than dismiss them.
Next we need to be open to discovering something new we might like after all. My approach of instantly switching the station when I get into my husband’s vehicle isn’t recommended for relationships. We can deal with those who are different than us by immediately trying to make them change to be like us. But doing so is not only dishonoring (perhaps even offensive) it also keeps us from learning and growing.
While that’s true, it is appropriate for us to invite them to listen to us as well. When we go on a roadtrip, my husband and I take turns picking the music. He gets what he wants for a certain period of time and then I get to choose my favorites.
Great conversations are like that too — everyone gets a chance to share as well as hear.
While we may never change our taste in music, I do believe over time we can gain an appreciation for other styles. I will never like opera, but I have a respect for the talent that goes into it. We may never agree with everything someone else says, but we can still affirm their worth as a person.
Looking at our world, it’s clear God loves variety. Just last night I watched a documentary that said there are millions of insects in the rainforest. So many that scientists can’t even count them all. And it feels like there are millions of kinds of “music” within the human race. How boring would this world be if we all sounded the same?
In our noisy culture it seems everyone is trying to be heard. But sometimes the greatest influence comes from being the one who is willing to listen.
Listening leads to understanding. Understanding leads to connection. Connection leads to love. And love is the only thing that has ever changed the world.
Hear what I’m saying?