December retreat reflection: Learning to listen (Version 2.0)

I’m now realizing that I never actually gave information on my group’s project. We’re looking at the presence of rape culture and sexual assault in high schools.

This retreat has really helped me realize something: I don’t have much of an understanding of other views on my group’s topic. I guess the only reason I can think of is that it’s based on values people learned growing up? The article “High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It”  mentions the idea of replacing blame with curiosity. Part of this is the idea of trying to understand multiple perspectives and where their perspective is coming from. There are views on rape culture that I don’t understand, but I should at least try to understand where they’re coming from.

The TEDTalk “The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives” also made me think about the idea of self-righteousness. Everybody thinks that they’re right, which will be important to keep in mind while interviewing people, especially if they have views that I disagree with. I should try to listen to other perspectives. Maybe I’ll learn something.

However. During the retreat, something about that TEDTalk bothered me. Viewpoints are shaped by experience, and, as Ruha Benjamin said in a video we watched at the November retreat, often people directly impacted by an issue have a clearer or more accurate view of the situation. Not all opinions automatically hold the same value. Additionally, they’ve been directly impacted, and in many situations, not giving someone with a differing viewpoint an opportunity isn’t because they’re convinced that they’re right and not willing to hear otherwise, it’s an act of self-defense. It becomes significantly harder for people from marginalized communities to talk to people with differing views, because one person is having a casual debate and one person is trying to defend their entire community. In a conversation, there’s a power imbalance, so no real conversation can happen unless the person with more power lets it, AND the person with less power likely has a more accurate view of the situation. I feel that this is important to add and that although the TEDTalk made good points, they ignored this aspect of it.

In the next month, we’re hoping to start interviewing people. I’m going to try to learn from what other people have to say. Another part of replacing blame with curiosity was the idea of assuming good intentions. I’m going to try to keep this in mind- I may not agree with everything that everyone says, but I shouldn’t feel personally attacked because that’s not what they’re trying to do. These interviews are supposed to be conversations, and we can’t have a productive conversation if one of us isn’t willing to listen. However, we should pay attention to who might have a more accurate view of the situation.

A few weeks have passed since the retreat and I felt like I didn’t entirely agree with everything that I said in this post. I went back and added to more accurately portray my thoughts.

Avery Murray-Gurney

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