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Listen: Truly Understanding What is Meaningful

To engage with other thought we need to LACE: Listen, Affirm, Critique and Enrich. Listening is a prerequisite for the others.

Listening means trying to truly understand what the other really means and values, especially getting behind the words or jargon they use. All too often, we react against or sometimes in favour of the words people utter, and thereby miss and misunderstand their intent.

Listening is especially useful when the other thought contains 'trigger words' that cause a reaction in us - usually a negative reaction that sets us against the thought, but sometimes a positive reaction that makes us too uncritical of it.

Listening aims to understand what is meaningful to the other and what they value most deeply, so that we can then know what to Affirm, what to Critique and in what ways to Enrich.

Listening is an attitude more than an activity or a method. We take a listening attitude throughout all the other activities, and keep on updating our understanding of what the other means and values, throughout. We remain open to all that is meaningful to them.

Listening is aware that the other can change their beliefs and ideas over time, often to become more nuanced, but occasionally even to change their minds. We don't want to be responding only to their old thought.

Listening is key to understanding with wisdom what really are the problems of the other's thought, and where we might fit in - to Critique and Enrich.

Though listening is not a method or technique, there is one tip I have found useful, and one conceptual tool. The tip is detect 'triggers' to which I react (negatively or positively) and try to understand what is really important to the other underneath the trigger word to which I react. Ask the question "why?"

The conceptual tool I have found useful to help me listen is Dooyeweerd's aspects. These are distinct spheres of meaningfulness, distinct ways in which things are meaningful and have value. They are a bit like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but more comprehensive and more soundly grounded philosophically. They recognise that things might be important or meaningful mfthematically, physicially, biologically, psychologically, technologically, socially and to society and even faith.

Example: "Feminism" often evokes aggression against men or the masculine, but if we listen to feminist discourses, we find their concern is that some aspects of life have traditionally been downplayed or denigrated and they wish to re-emphasise them. The body has been denigrated in opposition to the mind, emotions and wisdom, in opposition to logic and reason. Law had long been emphasised over care, the individual over the social. The importance of reason, law and the individual are labelled "masculine" while emotions, body, care, sociality and wisdom are labelled "feminine". However, from a Christian perspective, we are aware that emphasis on mind and reason emerged from Greek paganism, and that emphasis on love beyond law came with Jesus Christ, so these so-called feminist traits may be valid. That suggests to us that perhaps what feminism wants to do, under the surface, is restorative rather than reactive. This leads us on to being able to Affirm some of those "feminist" traits without denying the others. See the next piece, Affirm.

Challenge: Why don't Creationists try to truly Listen to Evolutionists? Why don't Evolutionists try to truly Listen to Creationists, and understand what they really mean and value behind the words and the obvious tropes?


Here are the elements of LACE:


Author: Andrew Basden.

First created: 18 January 2021 Last updated: 22 January 2021 triggers.