Viewpoint students’ refusal to listen to viewpoints

Amanda Swartz, Interview Editor

At Viewpoint, it is common to see students in the hallway disagreeing about topics ranging from homework assignments to politics. But as students communicate with one another, they seem not to be listening to their counterparts but just waiting for their turn to speak. As a result, students leave conversations feeling unheard and unappreciated.

There is a culture of people being seemingly unwilling to have a conversation without focusing on the end goal of winning or being right. Students appear to be more engaged in trying to belittle their counterpart until they run out of points to articulate due to frustration. This phenomenon of always needing to be “right” is fueling disconnection. Conversations are not meant to be won, but to share and receive. In the hallways of Viewpoint, winning does not seem to be engaging in different perspectives. An ideal result of student’s conversations should not be winning but understanding and growing.

It is time that we, as students, focus not on winning but expanding knowledge and perception. Always trying to come out on top promotes division and a lack of receptivity. We attend school to learn, understand, and grow, and a huge aspect of evolving is listening with an open mind, not projecting rejection and inflexibility.

This occurrence of stubbornness, however, is not surprising as if you turn on the television the same situation is found on practically every news outlet. People with high educations on what are considered to be respectable programs do the opposite of what is ideal: engaging in thoughtful conversations.

Maybe you are out of practice, and that is okay. It is not too late to start trying to be respectful of other people’s viewpoints. Try attempting to understand where the person you are speaking to is coming from, rather than thinking of a counter argument immediately after the other person says something you do not fully agree with.

Here are some suggested questions to think to yourself if you are struggling not to jump straight to refuting your counterpart’s opinion: do we have any common ground, big or small? More often than not, the answer is yes. Common ground could be as seemingly small as both feeling passionately about the subject. Surely if you appreciate your own passion, you can respect that another person has similarly strong emotions even if the basis of those strong emotions is drastically different from your own.

Have they been exposed to something I haven’t been causing them to feel the way they do? The answer is also practically always yes. We all have unique experiences that shape how we view an entire scope of topics. If everyone had the same exposure to the world, we would be stuck without varying perspectives, and thus without any capability for growth.

It is easy to reject differences and, as a result, create distance between one another. But, if we want to choose the mature, communicative route, we must begin to listen to other people’s viewpoints. When you try to understand another person’s perspective, the effect is more respect for your own opinions from other people. Viewpoint students are capable of engaging in thoughtful conversations. Now, it is only a matter of making the conscious choice to do so.