Listen

Whatever way you look at it, this year sure qualifies as “Interesting times”. The stuff that is happening right now in the US and other places, the protests over the killing of George Floyd, are the latest part of that, and they are the manifestation of issues that impact a lot of people.

If you are like me and most of this does not affect you personally, if you are not a member of a minority community, or a law enforcement officer, or have a stake in an affected area, then I have one, only one, suggestion: Listen.
Specifically, listen to the stakeholders, those who are affected. By the protests. By the death that led to them. By the background factors, the previous incidents, the different life experiences that play into it. It’s easy to try and intellectualise, to think we understand what it’s like, but mostly, if we’re not in those groups, we don’t.

I mean active listening, the way you would- should – in person. For those not familiar with active listening, it’s listening while fully paying attention to what the person is saying, shutting down your inner monologue and processing what they are saying before you formulate a response. There’s more to it, but the rest is mostly window dressing.

The internet is great for getting information, but it’s not the ideal environment for active listening, especially on social media. It’s really easy to start reading something and immediately filter it through existing perceptions and tribalism, to stop reading or watching after the first sentence that triggers those, one way or the other. Almost as easy to jump in with a response.

I think right now the “paying attention and processing” part is really important. Yes, the situation is complex, yes, there are other perspectives, yes, you have feelings about stuff that people are saying, but maybe it doesn’t have to be about that right now.

Listen, process. Then take action, if you so decide. Help if you want, reach out if you like. Speak up and share your opinions if that’s what you choose. If you’re not a stakeholder, just don’t make it about you and your Amazing Journey of Personal Growth (TM). No matter what impression Hollywood gave you, it doesn’t have to be about that right now.

PS: Wait, why is this here? I generally don’t do politics in public, and this is as much as I will budge on that right now. But this also has relevance on topic.
If you are in the martial arts and self defence world, at some point you will be learning from, practising with, teaching or giving advice to people who live a different reality to you, and are vulnerable to different things. Being able to listen to them, and listen well, is a relevant skill. Depending on your personality, not easy. But really fucking important.

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