Larry Kramer Authors Piece on Emphatic Listening

Larry Kramer Authors Piece on Emphatic Listening

Larry Kramer, President of the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, authored a piece for the organization entitled “Listening to the people who think we are wrong.” In the piece Mr. Kramer breaks down some of biggest communication issues in the current political and social landscape. He discusses listening with empathy, listening without hearing, and the Hewlett Foundation’s commitment to developing the discipline needed to listen emphatically by making the effort to engage with people of differing opinions.

Below is an excerpt.

Among the most corrosive developments of recent years—one that predates the election of Donald Trump—has been a breakdown in our ability to debate and reason with others with whom we disagree. The term du jour, “tribalism,” replaced the earlier “polarization” precisely to capture the added ingredient of animosity that has made even conversation across partisan divides difficult. Mistrust and hostility have been grafted onto disagreement about ideas.

Political scientists differ about how widespread the phenomenon is—some seeing it shared broadly across American society, while others believe it confined to activist elites. I lean toward the latter view, though the disease seems to be spreading awfully fast. The difference hardly matters, because activists drive and shape public debates. And, either way, the resulting take-no-prisoners politics threatens the future of democratic government, which presupposes disagreement and depends on willingness to work through and across differences from a sense of shared community.

We need to do better.

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