Updated: Jun 22, 2021
The Listening Challenge was a powerful way for me to connect with my father and to more deeply understand how his political views have formed over time. Over the past ten years, our political views have diverged from one another pretty significantly. Past conversations tended to go in circles or lead to greater entrenchment of our views.
By setting some supportive guidelines with one another, trying to ensure equal air time, and having structured questions to work through, I was able to move away from wanting or needing to ensure my points had been recognized and heard. This opened me up to being able to listen and find some common ground, and to even set aside phrases or comments that might have led to me being more defensive.
I learned stories I had never heard before in 30+ years of conversations around world views. I didn’t realize how my father’s coming of age and service during the Vietnam War had left such a lasting legacy that continued to shape his views, and that this had been a period of really significant polarization among young people at the time.
I was also struck and inspired by the fact that we had very similar views of what a good life looks like, and our hopes and dreams for America. We could talk a bit about our family environment and how it was rooted in really strong family values. Ultimately, we found a lot of common ground by exploring these questions together.
I left the conversation with more empathy, understanding and openness. I also felt like I developed a skill set and a model that could be applied to future difficult conversations. I came away with a strong sense of how proud my dad is of me, and how much he loves me, which meant the world to me.