I came across a meme recently. You’ve probably seen it, it regularly pops up on different group pages. It goes like this: A person is on a podium and asks a group of people: “Who wants change?” To which everyone replies: "We do!" Then the person on the podium asks:” Who wants TO change?” And the group of people remain silent.
I feel this is a wonderful representation of many of the deaf dialogues we are having as a society at the moment. What is a deaf dialogue you ask? Simply put, it’s when two people (or more) expose their point of view without listening to the other person. One could call it an exchange of monologues, but that would imply that there's some form of listening, which does not happen in a deaf dialogue. I believe one of the main reasons a deaf dialogue occurs is the refusal from each party to change their point of view or accept any difference from the other.
That said, I do understand a person’s tendency to stay within the borders of their beliefs and life philosophy. Part of who we are comes from the influence exerted on us from personal events that shaped our minds and by extension, our outlook on life. And those events don't have to be traumatic, they can be happy memories or obstacles one has surmounted. What I find ironic is that what makes a person beautiful — life experience, overcoming adversity, cultural background, is also the foundation used to create the walls that people put up to defend against an invisible enemy.
I use the term invisible enemy because there's one specific pillar to that foundation that serves as the base for everything else. That pillar is called they, or them. “It’s all their fault.” “Because of them, I can’t… (fill in the blank here, there are too many possibilities).” “They don’t think like me, therefore they are against me.” Granted, this last one is a bit too generalized, but I didn’t want to get into the hundreds of different ways they are accused of misdeeds. The reality is that true change can only happen from within one’s heart and mind.
If we want change to happen in the world that surrounds us, how can we believe we won’t have to change as well to adapt to whatever new reality shows itself? More than that, if we refuse to change and adapt, the world will move on without us, which can be even more daunting. By closing one’s mind, it becomes almost impossible to see beyond the problem. By contrast, with an open mind, one can find the solutions, even when they are not what was expected.
But to accept change is to become vulnerable, which can be scary. Except being vulnerable doesn’t mean relinquishing all your beliefs or losing confidence in your own abilities. Being open to different possibilities means you are ready to grow. As we finish, the next time you find yourself in a difficult conversation that challenges your way of thinking, take a breath and listen. Don’t prepare an answer in your mind, just listen. Don’t tell yourself that this person has it all wrong, just listen. You’ll be amazed at the quality of conversati