We’re All in This Together

In+our+world+today%2C+many+people+choose+to+avoid+conversations+with+others+in+hopes+to+avoid+conflicts.+But+what+would+our+world+be+like+if+people+listened%3F

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In our world today, many people choose to avoid conversations with others in hopes to avoid conflicts. But what would our world be like if people listened?

By Kirsten L. and Aurora GS.

The theory of a spiral of silence represents the idea that a larger group disagrees with, then isolates a smaller group’s opinion, causing the minority group to fear sharing their viewpoint. Unfortunately, this theory tells no lies.

In considering the nature of our middle school world today, enduring opinion-related backlash is common. However, the importance of listening to the rebuttals of others may help identify solutions when we disagree. Campus staff often find themselves in the middle of these types of student conflict. 

“In terms of me being here at Day Creek as a school counselor, every opinion of every student I will take as valid, but I do my best to direct them in a way to make sure that the opinion that they have formed has been based on all of the facts,” said Ms. Gaines, the new counselor at Day Creek. 

Most students agree that everyone’s voice should be heard, no matter who’s speaking, whether it’s a student, teacher, or school counselor. Despite how absurd an individual’s statements are, hearing each other out can help us better understand the reasoning for unique beliefs, and if necessary, allows us to redirect a harmful opinion toward a more reasonable point of view. 

“It’s important to hear someone’s opinion because since people think it’s weird and crazy, they don’t get heard. Sometimes it has sense and it could be correct in some ways because they think out of the box,” said 7th grader Keilah B.

Jeremy Firmer, a University of Winnipeg professor in the department of psychology, conducted an experiment that paid people $10 to read several statements on a topic that they disagreed with. A second option encouraged the participant to read statements supporting their beliefs, but the prize money was reduced to $7.  

“What we found was that about 65 percent said no thanks to the money, and I’d rather just hear people from my own side rather than the other side,” Jeremy Frimer said.

According to Beyond Intractability, people do everything possible to avoid conflict in a conversation, so we tend to veer topics away from disagreement instead of wrestling through healthy debate. 

“[A positive outcome occurs when] one person talks at a time and you listen to them. Everybody has different views, [but] if people can talk about it, discuss it intelligently, and back up your idea with data, it’s healthy to share different ideas,” said Mrs. Routh.

We also have to choose our battles wisely, deciding whether to listen to the opposing side or simply ignore it. 

“Right now people are very judgemental; they’ll judge you on anything if they don’t agree with you,” said 7th grader Gabriella M.

People can be hard-headed when it comes to their opinions, often rooted in personal experience, reflecting strong emotion behind those beliefs. This makes it challenging to avoid their wrath during conflict. 

“[Adults and children get heated by their own opinions] cause they feel like they’re not being understood. [It impacts] people’s ego,” said Mrs. Routh.

So how exactly do we get people to listen?

According to the Management Training Institute, when sharing different views, it’s important to understand that there is no “winning” or “losing.” It’s more about finding common ground to better understand the mindset behind what they have to say. 

“I think allowing a moment of silence for someone to collect their thoughts is really important and critical. I also think that silence allows for others to contemplate a complete thought,” said Ms. Gaines. 

Listening allows others to speak. Learning when to stay silent and use our ears can create a mindset for unique perspectives reflecting others’ backgrounds and experiences.

“Listening to others can help you solve problems, and see new opportunities.  Success Consciousness said. “[Listening] gets you more useful ideas and practical tips that can help you in many ways.”

There’s an opportunity for a better outcome when we listen to those around us, being purposeful about effective communication. 

“Listening is valuable because you can include everybody and see your mistakes. Sometimes your way of thinking is actually not the best way, so people can add on to it,” said 7th grader Keilah B. ‘

All of us know that our world is divided. One way to solve this is to aim for safe dialogue. Our collaborative minds are needed now more than ever to create real community. Thoughtfulness in how we listen and speak truly honors the diversity around us.

“Working together matters because it’s what we need as a civilization. We need it in order to grow and to work together to work beyond our disagreements and focus on what’s good as a whole,” said Mrs. Routh.

Loud opinions may certainly create influence, yet the real impact comes from those who are willing to listen and consider the unique viewpoints all around us. 

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say,” said Bryant H. McGill.

This story was originally published on The Day Creek Howl on January 11, 2022.