Stop Hearing, Start Listening


Micaela Eberly, Editor

“I’m right, and I know I am,” a friend from English class said as we walked out into the hallway after a socratic seminar. 

It wasn’t what I wanted to hear — especially since I disagreed with her. My academic mind on fire, I fought to defend my viewpoint. After thinking about it more, though, my thoughts moved to the bigger impact of our conflict. 

In most classes, we’re rewarded for figuring out the one correct answer to a problem. Imagine how many possible numbers could be the solution on your math test, or recall historical events that can’t be changed. The same goes for nearly every subject. 

Then comes English class. Seeing as it’s how we operate in most periods throughout the day, we scan literature for the one interpretation that earns us an A. In reality, it’s not that simple. 

Say you’re reading a poem. Maybe you’re passionate about your interpretation or you connected with the piece personally. Proud of your work, you raise your hand and triumphantly share your well-developed analysis. However, instead of the agreements and support you expected, your classmates instantly point out the reasons that you’re wrong. 

I argue that you are not necessarily wrong. From the moment you step foot in your English class, you’re bringing a new understanding to what you’re reading. As you dissect literary works, you sift the ideas through filters made of your past experiences and opinions, but all that can easily get lost in judgement from others. 

In Hampton’s highly competitive atmosphere, it’s easy for people to assume that because their GPAs are better than someone else’s, they themselves are better. I’m immediately shutting this down. Assuming one’s perspective is better than someone else’s is naive and self-centered. Your academic performance does not and should not define your worth. You are not better than anyone, and no one is better than you. 

For this reason, it’s important to note that we should be cautious about how we approach it when a classmate presents an idea that’s different from ours. (Note my choice of “when” as opposed to “if.”) I’d like to clarify that I’m not mad at my friend or anyone else who has succumbed to these isolated ways of thinking. I too am guilty of having a closed, selfish mindset more than I’d like. Still, I hope we can all agree that it would be a better, less stressful environment if we were open to what other people had to say. 

Back to the example, if you had been ridiculed because of your poetry analysis, you might be less likely to want to speak up next time. In fact, of the 60 people who responded to a poll on the Hamptonian’s Twitter (@hhshamptonian), 80% said that they have lost confidence or felt judged when sharing an opinion in class that no one agrees with. Look around your next classroom and count out every 8 of 10 people. You’ll find that you aren’t alone. 

The purpose of this article isn’t to raise my fist and curse the school system for creating this atmosphere. I know it’s not entirely to blame. Nevertheless, we can’t deny this issue. 

We’re told from an early age to be considerate of people and not confine ourselves to our own perspective, but it can be very difficult to put into practice. You might be so focused on what you have to say that you blurt out your thoughts as soon as someone finishes speaking without acknowledging what he or she said. Instead, be an active listener, and try to understand their side. You might even gain a new respect for a viewpoint you hadn’t considered. 

Whether you’re the one speaking to someone of an opposing stance or listening to someone go against you, make sure the other side knows the validity of all opinions. It may mean explaining what led to your belief or as seeing another’s thought process can be helpful in stepping outside one’s own head. 

If there seems to be little hope, though, change the subject or walk away. Sometimes, people won’t listen to what others have to say, and as long as you’re being mindful of their opinion in return, you shouldn’t have to waste your time with someone who doesn’t respect you. 

Most importantly, try to remember that every person you see in the hallways, on the road, or in your own home has a personal background that shapes how they see the world every second of the day. Who knows? You may even disagree with me on this very article.