We don't understand each other

Activist Frances Kissling embodies an openness that is uncomfortable and difficult in this political moment. It’s a challenging coincidence that we chose to air her show this week, What Is Good in the Position of the Other, when few of us feel trust in the other side. But in her decades of work at the center of our fraught conversation on abortion, Kissling says she finds hope not in the possibility of common ground or agreement, but rather in the process of coming to true understanding through deep listening:

“When people who disagree with each other come together with a goal of gaining a better understanding of why the other believes what they do, good things come of that. But the pressure of coming to agreement works against really understanding each other, and we don't understand each other.”

Her words have weighed heavily on my mind as I’ve been watching the news this week. What happens when we fail to listen — repeatedly, generationally, historically? Because Kissling is right — we don’t understand each other. And for all of the difficult progress we’ve made in the #metoo era to validate the pain of those who have spent too much of their lives holding their trauma in silence, it remains true that we have a lifetime of listening to reconcile with. As Krista has written:

“The point of listening is to bring our lives into conversation, which is the original meaning of conversation: to live among, be familiar with, keep company. This points at the richness that civility might hold — an ideal that is ours to invent anew — as something full-blooded and muscular, more culture-shifting and reality-based than a choice between politeness and argument.”

Kristin Lin
Editor, On Being Studios


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