Listening Truly Matters
Karen and Jay share thoughts on the importance and benefits of being a good listener.
To truly listen – is to show respect. When we listen so intently that we can understand the other person’s perspective, we build a foundation for a positive relationship. We develop the ability to resolve our differences with mutual respect. Too often today, we see people talking past each other – or even worse, going on the attack – when instead, some simple, heartfelt listening would make all the difference.
Over the last few months, there have been many calls for unity across the country, proclamations by politicians, business and civic leaders, and regular citizens that we need to heal the bitter divisiveness that seems to ensnare much of our public life these days. Yet, when these calls go out, they often lack a clear directive that both inspires us to take action and gives us the proper tools to do so in our own communities. What good is a general proclamation if it can’t be acted upon?
While I believe strongly in the call for unity, what’s often missing is actionable follow up. For me, that follow up is something that seems simple on the surface, almost as involuntary as breathing, but the truth is, it actually requires steadfast commitment. I’m talking about listening, and more specifically, listening actively.
Recently, it seems like everyone is shouting at one another on social media or news networks without really taking a moment to hear what others have to say. But imagine just for a moment if we did listen. When someone else is speaking, especially when discussing sensitive subjects where there may be disagreement, too often we are preoccupied with formulating our own response or validating our own perspective. Though it may seem difficult, there’s great power in silencing that ‘noise’ and using curiosity to explore why someone else may have a different opinion or perspective. If anything, it’s an opportunity to broaden our own perspective. It’s part of what’s called bridging the gap.
Studies have shown that active listening is akin to an investment in a relationship where the return (the strength of the relationship) increases in relation to the amount of time one actively listens. By listening actively, we approach our differences not with anger or disdain, but with the curiosity and humility that leads to more constructive dialogue and positive outcomes. To get beyond the divisiveness of the moment, it requires a more robust understanding of what unity means and how we intend to achieve it. If we begin to listen, we may be able to do just that.
Laconia – A Small City – With A Very Bright Future
Laconia, New Hampshire is beautifully situated on Lake Winnipesauke in the center of the state and is poised for growth. It has an active community spirit, a rich history and incredible assets to build upon. It’s recently restored Colonial Theater is a true treasure and set to be an irresistible magnet for culture and the arts. The city has a first-class regional airport and a downtown that is in the midst of an exciting revitalization. Laconia is ‘on the move’ and the momentum is building.
One interesting historical fact is that what sets Laconia apart from the other towns in the area is that it is not a town at all. It is actually one of NH’s few cities and was formed from four different communities in 1855. Originally founded as a town, Laconia transitioned to a city form of government in 1893, and today serves as a key center of activity for the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. In addition, Laconia has a much more industrial past than the other surrounding towns which have always derived most of their commerce from either logging or in more recent times, tourism.
In a marvelous way, Laconia uniquely blends the best of what New Hampshire has to offer. On the one hand, the city has a deep history of industry and manufacturing that has left behind iconic mill buildings that are being retooled into housing and modern offices. Meanwhile, there is also plenty of natural beauty to explore and an incredible array of recreational activities easily accessible and fun for all ages.
Laconia is a fun place to visit year-round – attracting people from across the country and beyond. There is the annual Laconia Motorcycle Week, also known as ‘Bike Week,’ one of the nation's largest rallies, and each winter, there is the Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby.
Whether your visit is for one of these events or to simply enjoy some of the other amenities Laconia has to offer, you’re certain to enjoy a trip to this great small city!
First in the Nation – Where Candidates Come to Listen
For over 100 years now, the state of New Hampshire has been the first state in the nation to hold its presidential primary. It’s a place where presidential candidates have an opportunity to actually talk with and more importantly, ‘listen’ - to voters. It’s a point of great pride for Granite Stater’s where participation is understood as part of our civic duty as Americans, a responsibility that’s not taken lightly as a citizen of the state and the country. We cherish our status as ‘First in the Nation’ so much that it’s written into our state law, codified by declaring that our primary must happen “on the Tuesday at least seven days immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election."
In recent years, there have been challenges to this status, however. After the most recent presidential elections, there were calls that other states who may more closely represent the demographic makeup of the United States should be given the opportunity to be first in the nation. While we should always welcome ideas, I continue to believe strongly in New Hampshire’s ‘First in the Nation’ status.
Beyond the tradition of the primary, New Hampshire is an uncommon state whose electorate is especially wise and well experienced. And most of all fiercely independent. Neither consistently red or blue, New Hampshire today is a ‘purple’ state, where a diverse array of political opinions make up the electorate. The last elections being a perfect example where voters overwhelmingly voted for a Republican governor, while also electing a Democrat as President. Additionally, the relative size of the media market in the state gives candidates with bright ideas, who may not have the same buying power as a more well-known candidate, the opportunity for their voices to be heard, and in turn, making the process more democratic.
Most importantly though, we voters in the Granite State take our responsibility seriously. It’s been noted by many presidential candidates in the past how their time in New Hampshire has changed the way they understand the electorate because of how active and well-informed voters are in the state. The ability to go door to door, speak candidly with individuals over a breakfast or coffee in the early days of a race helps prepare candidates for the road ahead. Even President Obama advocated for the current primary process, and noted that his experience in the primary, “felt to me like the best example of what democracy should be.”
In the spirit of the week’s Sunshine Report where we’ve talked about the virtues of listening, New Hampshire’s primary for me is a stellar example of how effective listening helps positively shape our politics and our way of life. From the voters of our great state, to the candidates who come to hear what the people have to say and set the course of their campaigns, we see first-hand how integral this great exchange of ideas is to the democratic process. It’s why I have and will always remain a steadfast advocate of our ‘First in the Nation’ status.
Positive Profile of the Week: Maureen Mooney
Daniel Dae Kim said it best “there is much wisdom in listening as there is speaking...".
I couldn’t agree more, and it’s her ability to truly listen that distinguishes Maureen Mooney and why we are so delighted to highlight her this week.
State Representative Maureen Mooney is a highly respected and sought out advisor. Her keen intellect is widely admired, and her passion for giving back and seeing others succeed is why she is held in such high regard. Maureen holds multiple degrees, including advanced degrees in law and education. Maureen served from 2009-2014 as the associate dean at the Massachusetts School of Law, as well as leading New Hampshire’s largest charter school for six years.
Today, Maureen serves in the New Hampshire House of Representatives representing the town of Merrimack. But this isn’t her first go-round in the state capital. Maureen served in the House from 2002-2008 and was a key figure on the Judiciary Committee. In addition, Maureen has been a party leader, having served as Chairman of the Platform Committee and Secretary of the State Republican Party.
Maureen’s record of accomplishments is impressive including recognition as being a member of New Hampshire’s ‘40 under 40.’ But more important than any individual achievement is Maureen’s incredibly level-headed demeanor and her ability to actively listen to others.
Thank you, Maureen for your sincere approach, for your friendship, and for your endless and selfless service to others.
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.”
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk.”
“There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.”
“Most of the successful people I've known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”
“Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.”