What is it about?
To the editor:
Have you argued with your spouse or friend, and after you defend yourself, they say, “It’s not about you!” What do they mean?
What they mean is, “I’ve told you something is hurting me, and you changed the subject to you!” By insisting on why you shouldn’t be blamed for the hurt, you’ve changed the subject. Now, we’re talking about you. You’re saying why it’s not your fault. You’re saying you had good reasons for what you did. You’re saying you didn’t mean to hurt them. What you’re not doing is listening to them, letting them explain how and why they are hurt. You’re making the conversation about you.
But it’s not about you.
This issue of “talking instead of listening” applies also to a kind of public talking we’re doing today. When people say “Black Lives Matter” we become defensive and we stop listening. When people say these phrases, they’re saying something about how the world is affecting them. If we answer that “All lives matter,” or some such response, that’s the defensive, “it’s not my fault,” non-listening answer. We’re making it about us.
But it’s not about us. It’s about the ones that are hurt. For instance, between 2010 and 2012, young Black males in America were 21 times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts, according to federal statistics (Kendi, 2016). When a problem that big is identified, it should be addressed. Immediately.
Hurt, followed by defensiveness, is what leads to the divisiveness that we have today. I think that, in families, marriages, relationships that we don’t want to end, we have to learn to put aside defensiveness and listen; listen to find where the hurt is. If we don’t listen, if we defend our actions to the end, we bring on the end. Not just the end of the conversation, but the end of the relationship.
For the public discussion, I believe that when we listen, we become a community that’s looking for a solution. Listening when someone says they’re hurt is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of love and respect.
If we adopt a defensive posture, we may win an argument, but we may lose the relationship. We may fail to live up to our values. We may regret making it all about us. We should regret failing to fix a problem that will grow to hurt more and more people. Don’t you agree?