60 Second Idea to Improve the World
(Introductions to the program. Introductions of the guests)
Bridget Kendall (host of the program): So, Nancy, are you ready?
Nancy Baym (guest who will give a 60 second idea): I‟m ready.
Bridget Kendall: Okay, you have exactly one minute to convince us. Off you go. (Timer begins ticking.)
Nancy Baym: I‟d like to see all nations institute compulsory licensing for everyone to demonstrate proficiency in listening before they can receive any of the benefits and rewards in adulthood. For the most part, we tend to emphasize message production and being good at talking, being good at getting your point across. Most of the time, everyday that we spend actually hearing other people we tend to be focused on like „what
do I want to say next?‟, „what do I think about what you‟re saying?‟ We‟re not very focused on „what do they want to say?‟, „what are they trying to communicate?‟, „where are they coming from?‟ The result is that we talk past each other, instead of really
understanding one another. When we really listen to one another, on the other hand, we, for one thing, we make everyone feel a lot better. There‟s nothing that makes you feel a whole lot better than to feel like you‟ve really been heard and understood. It‟s not that
hard to be a good listener. It‟s kind of like riding a bike, once you get it you got it and you‟re good. And it would make the world a lot quieter and that would be better in and of itself. (Timer rings.)
Bridget Kendall: Okay, Nancy. Thank you very much for that. This is about paying attention to other people‟s points of view, isn‟t it? But I‟m intrigued by this idea of compulsory licensing. How would you do it? What would be the test?
Nancy Baym: I suppose we‟ve managed to pull off driver‟s licenses, right? I mean I
guess maybe you‟d have to go have a conversation with someone and you‟d have to at the end tell them not just what they were saying, but also what they were feeling when they said it, what their broader point of view was, what positions they were taking. So, not just a summary of the words, but a summary of the point and the emotions behind the point. Then that person would have to access whether you had gotten it or not. Something like that.
Bridget Kendall: That‟s interesting. So, not just listening comprehension, but listening empathy. What do you think about this Alex?
Alex Forhoover: Well, this test is definitely feasible, because my mother administered it everyday. (Laughter) More seriously, the one thing I really like about this idea is this focus on listening. I think a lot of psychological and evolutionary research I‟ve recently
been reading shows that people are persuadable. We are shaped to be persuadable. And what does that mean? It means if you really listen to someone who has a different point of view than your own, your views we usually tend to bend in their direction. We can be, so to speak, somewhat infected or corrupted by other people‟s views and do the same back to them. So there‟s a kind of automatic movement towards consensus. I think that‟s generally a good thing. There‟s a lot of bickering, arguing, shrillness in conversation going on that we could get rid of and bring out our persuadable selves.
Bridget Kendall: Get beyond polemic.
Alex Forhoover: Exactly. But, I do not like the idea of compulsion. But maybe that‟s because this test has been administered to me too many times.
Bridget Kendall: What about you William Kendrich?
William Kendrich: I‟m not quite as sanguine about the idea as Alex that we are so
persuadable. I think we‟re persuadable on things that don‟t matter. But, if you have to think about the 40 thousand million pieces of advice that you have been given throughout your life how many of those you have actually heard or listened to that have changed you, I think could count about three. Each of those were I think confirmations of something I been feeling, but unable to quite either articulate or make the leap of acknowledging. So, to some extent, I think in important things one hears things one already knows, one is ready to hear.
Bridget Kendall: Okay, we‟re gonna have to wrap this very quickly from you, Nancy. How about this problem that people might listen, but will they hear?
Nancy Baym: Well, I think that‟s the challenge. And I would put it the other way
around. I think we hear all the time, but do we really listen? It‟s one thing for our little ears to hear the sounds, and it‟s another for our minds to process what they‟re saying. I
think to respond to this idea of persuadability, one of the things that I think happens with true listening is that it gives you enough of a true sense of what is this person saying that you can from your own perspective to then have reasonable grounds to say; “Yes, I agree
with it” or “No, I disagree with it and here‟s why”, rather then just having that knee jerk,
Bridget Kendall: Okay, well, Nancy Baym, thank you very much… (wraps up program)
Homework Questions – Listening Licenses
1) What is a plan?
2) Write an example of a simple plan from your everyday life.
3) What does Nancy Baym want to achieve in the world with her idea of listening licenses?
4) If Nancy Baym‟s plan came true, do you think it would create an improvement in the world? Why or Why not?
5) Do you think people in your country would be better or worse at passing the listening license test than in some other countries?
6) What would happen to people who didn‟t pass the listening license test?
7) How could you help people who didn‟t pass to pass the test the next time?
8) When are you most concerned about getting your own point across? When are you most concerned with listening to what someone else is saying?
9) Nancy Baym wants the test to discover if people can listen with empathy. You could probably pass a test asking you which words were said. Could you pass a test that asks about the emotions and point of view of the speaker?
10) Nancy Baym laid aside the question about how persuadable people are. Without laying aside the question, who do you side with more on how persuadable people are Alex Forhoover or William Kendrich? Why?
11) Is it more difficult to listen to someone from another generation?
12) What phrases or expressions were difficult to understand in the transcripts of the podcast?