My name is Eleanor Cooper. I am a senior at Burris Laboratory School, and I am doing a fall internship with Shafer Leadership Academy. I am passionate about developing myself and others.
I also pride myself on being outspoken and I love being right, to a fault.
As much as I get frustrated when people assume things about me, I assume things about others. I write about these topics because I know that when I am teaching and coaching others, I am also coaching myself.
It’s a Mindset
No, this is not a personal attack. It’s the mindset that, often, we find ourselves in. Want to win an argument? Just assume the other person is ignorant. Abandon all hope of a genuine conversation after hearing one thing that you can judge them for. Right? Well…
This is flawed in a few different ways. First, you cannot go into a conversation and expect to gain from it if you want to ‘win’. The point of an argument is not to win, and that’s something that we’ve been wrong about for a long time. Is it helpful to yell and bicker and wear someone down so much that they believe it’s hopeless to converse with you?
“So, Eleanor,” you might be thinking, “What is the point of an argument, if not to prove that your point is correct?” Simply put, stating your point can replace hours of strife. Stating is different than proving. No one is going to agree with you 100% of the time, and we need to accept that.
What Can We Do Better?
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” (Stephen R. Covey) Now, listening comes in. Once we are clear that we don’t need to prove ourselves correct every moment of every day, we are ready to have open minds. So, let us answer the question: What can we do better?
- Discipline yourself. Have you ever caught yourself making a snap judgement purely out of habit? Chances are, you have. If this happens, stop yourself. Jumping to conclusions is one of the most harmful things that we do.
- Ask them. Likely, no one has. Ask if anything is wrong and how you can help. Do not ask accusatory questions such as “Why were you late?” “Does that mean you hate ___?” “So, you’re a ___?” “So, you think that ___?” instead, “Did something happen that you need to talk through?” “How do you feel about ___?” “Are you ___?” “What do you think about ___?”
- Listen for a response. Sure, maybe you are asking instead of assuming, and you are asking in a polite way, but what’s the little voice in your head saying? In the back of your mind, do you already think you know the answer? Maybe not- if that is the case, kudos to you! I know that I still struggle with internalized judgements and biases.
That is OK.
Admitting our struggles is a sign of progress. Working harder to listen results in better relationships. You will feel better and so will the people around you.
About the author:
Eleanor Cooper is an intern at Shafer Leadership Academy this year working with Executive Director Mitch Isaacs. She attends Burris Laboratory School as a senior and first connected with Shafer Leadership Academy as a part of the Burris-Central Youth Leadership Program in early 2019.