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  • Writer's pictureSheri McGuinn

Listen to Understand

As writers, we listen to understand - whether it's an interview for an article or just eavesdropping on an interesting conversation that may be fodder for fiction, the goal is always to understand the person and their situation.

Brother and Sheri McGuinn

About thirty years ago, my brother divorced the family. A couple of years ago, we sat down and talked for eleven hours and mended our relationship. He said he'd had to get away from family for his health - he'd always had high blood pressure and family made it worse. Given my experience of our family, I found this believable as a reason.

We listened to each other and ended on good terms.

His relationship with our father was particularly acrimonious - they're both gone now, so there's no opportunity to mend things. Unfortunately, their lack of communication led to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Especially sad is that my nieces thought their grandfather didn't care about them, while he was hurt that their father wouldn't allow them to visit and that they didn't reach out when they got older. With good communication, none of that hurt would exist.

Which brings me to the country's situation. We've got angry people on both sides screaming their opinions and a great big quiet group in the middle crossing their fingers, hoping everything works out okay. We need productive, calm communication to avoid a world of hurt.

The first step is for each of us to speak up and ask questions when someone's view doesn't make sense to us - questions intended to help us understand. Then we need to actually listen to understand, rather than skip-listen for points to attack. If you do think they've missed something important, ask if they're aware of it.

Our family missed out on a lot by not listening to each other. I don't want to see our country make the same error.

Sheri McGuinn - I write. Award-winning stories and novels. Screenplays and more.

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