Debate: The Art of Passionate Listening

I bet you’ve never thought of debate as passionate listening before. In fact, the first thing we think of when we hear “debate” is two sides voicing their own convictions and opinions. Yet, if we are really debating well, we are also listening to our “opponent.” 

Most of us have deep passions stemming from our experiences in this life. And I hate to break this to you, no matter what we’ve lived through, neither you or I know everything about anything! We should all be learning and growing as long as we have breath. Sometimes I think we forget that we have much to learn from one another. 

I enjoy when someone challenges me on something I think I know. Going back and forth with our given understanding, if we are willing, we both learn something important, new, or a different perspective than the one we’ve come to perceive as the sole truth. And if I’m being honest, my first reaction is usually that I’m right, and you’re not necessarily wrong. I want my opinion validated, because unless I consider what you’re saying is dead wrong, I will validate yours. And even if my strong convictions decree that you are, in fact, dead wrong, I will still do my earnest best to validate your experiences and what you’re saying.

The bottom line is that I want to hear you. We should want to hear one another. As humans, we should validate each other by passionately listening to one another and considering well what is being said. It broadens our thinking, helps us understand our own limitations, and helps us strengthen our convictions. 

With social media, it seems that we are too quick to judge, too stubborn to listen, and too adamant to lend understanding and validation to each other. We demand that we are the only voice of reason, and any and all other opinions are unsound and foolish. It’s seems that this is a plague brought on by the ability to hide behind a keyboard and spew our opinions unthinkingly. We don’t face one another and engage in conversation much anymore. I’m pretty sure that the way we “behave” on the internet would be different if we were looking into one another’s eyes. 

I challenge myself and each of us to learn to listen. Before responding to that person whose post or comment you so vehemently disagree with, take a breath. Think about what they’re saying. Ask yourself or even ask them why they see it the way they do and listen. Don’t REACT to their opinion. Respond to it by thoughtfully proposing your viewpoint, if you must. But first, take care to clarify that you at least hear what they are saying.

If we all did this, we could actually learn something. About one another. About ourselves. 

Try it now. With the man in this video. Can you listen and judge not? I know I would have loved to spend a few minutes talking with Mr. Knight! Now, I'll just have to wait! 


  1. Awesome. I feel invisible so many times. I can be talking but in the middle of a sentence they will walk off or say 'what?' afterward. People hear someone is talking but a listener is rare. Especially passionately listening. CB

  2. Listening is both a verb and a noun. We can listen or be a listener! Ultimately it is a choice to be unselfish and enter into that wonderful place of openness and anticipation of newness. I listened today to friend whom I know...and I listened to the late Mr. Knight, with whom I have yet to meet. I learned from both. It was a is a discipline. Thank you! SS

  3. I remember taking a course years ago in active listening. I did very well in the course. But always find myself guilty of not passionately listening to others at times. I'm sure we are all guilty of it. As a child, I never spoke. I stood at the back of our family's living room behind a door and watched and listened. I took trips with family and never uttered a word. I always felt invisible too like one of your posters mentioned. And when I did dare to utter something, I always felt ridiculed, not believed, not listened to. That can very extremely painful and hurtful. It marks you unless you know that Christ can use that very thing and turn it into something beautiful. Passionate listening and hearing others is an art, but one that can be learned if we are willing. Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart and the hearts of others who aren't always heard. I hear you!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing so candidly your own experiences. It seems to me that you were born to be a listener. Good listeners are rare jewels and very precious in our world!


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