George Floyd and Listening

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If you have been watching the news lately, and face it, who hasn’t in these circumstances, you’ve probably come across people protesting to emphasize that “Black Lives Matter” in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer. Other police officers are facing controversy and backlash because of this. People are even considering disbanding the Minneapolis Police Department altogether. There must be a better way to fix this.

Let me take you back to a book I had to read for a couple of classes when I was a teenager: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey. Habit 5 is “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood” which basically means develop good listening skills so you’ll be a genuine listener to everyone. I think this is the most important habit because everyone wants to feel listened to and that their thoughts and feelings matter. For some people on the spectrum, that’s not always easy. They often struggle with finding the right thing to say, they don’t always understand what someone is going through, they may not know how to get their feelings across, and they also say the wrong thing sometimes.

There is a poem that’s simply titled “Please Listen”. There are numerous rewritten versions of that poem for people struggling with mental health problems, like depression and anxiety, but for the purpose of this post, here is the one that I feel fits most: “When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving me advice, you have not done what I asked. When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings. When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as that may seem. Listen! All I ask is that you listen. Don’t talk or do-just hear me.”

All people, not just people with autism, should take this poem to heart if they want to become genuine listeners. The best thing for spectrum people to do in these times is to just listen because we’re very vulnerable and we tend to say inappropriate things from time to time. There’s no time like the present to focus on this. The best thing to do is if someone tells you about it, just focus on not only what they’re saying but also the tone of how they’re saying it and the body language, because believe it or not, roughly 7 percent of our total communication comes from the words we say, with another 40 percent coming from how we say it, and the other 53 percent, the biggest chunk, comes from body language. Don’t be like “Big Bang Theory” character Sheldon Cooper who only focuses on the words and not the tone or body language behind them.

If you encounter someone who is affected by the George Floyd protests or anything negative going on in this country right now, give them your full attention and ask them who you can vote for to make everything better again. They’ll feel a bit better knowing that you’ve listened to their true feelings and not just what they had to say.

If you are not registered to vote, please register and plan to vote in both local and national elections. Our future depends on selecting people who represent the values we want to see in our nation. This is our chance to be heard by picking elected officials who will listen.