I love you beautiful, complicated people; let’s try to be better


Try really listening to people who have experiences different from yours. Like, really, actually do it. Social media provides this wonderful listening tool, but instead so many use it as a means of being louder about their myopic views. This tendency spans across the political spectrum, and is popular regardless of which candidate one supports. It’s sad to see such a grand basket of opportunities go wasted day after day.

I am grateful to those who have opened up about their lives and perspectives and share these things with me in nascent ways. I have tried to listen as best as I can. I’m not always successful in doing so, but I am much better off when I do. I feel nourished when I do. You know when you’re talking with someone and realize they’re just waiting their turn to project? It feels that way on Twitter and Facebook and in the comments section a discouraging amount of the time. But again, I’m grateful and better whenever I truly try to hear people out and better understand where they’re coming from. If this describes you in some way — in any way — thank you.

If you’re in the middle of an exchange and you go, “No! Actually, it’s like this!” Take two beats and ask if you’ve actually considered another perspective. Chances are if your impulse is “NO!” you haven’t actually done that. Chances are if that’s your impulse, you’re shutting out the world even if you fancy yourself progressive and open minded. You don’t have to agree, but at least try to hear.

I don’t mean to get preachy in any way but it’s sad to see truly thoughtful people get caught up in their own myopia.

Consider your own barriers to experiencing the world the way others experience it. If you are white and straight and cis or some or all of the above [those of us who capitalize on the largest share of what is defaulted to as “normative”] and you are just living around mostly white people, people who outwardly identify as straight or cis people of some or all of the above, there are experiences you just don’t instinctively understand. It’s okay to not fundamentally understand every experience, so it’s equally okay to not pretend that you do.

So listen before asserting you know what’s up. White, straight people, and cis people asserting authoritative knowledge about every single thing has long been a zero sum game. And often it has led to violence against everybody else, and then to erasure of that violence by refusing to see, hear or acknowledge those experiences. So when you don’t even consider other points of view, when you automatically default to shutting out experiences and interpretations different from those you default to, you often help to perpetuate that.

And to compound an already sad scenario, you refuse to yourself insight into the world, and intimacy with people beyond people who experience life exactly as you do. I haven’t always known what to do with what I’ve learned by listening. And sometimes it feels uncomfortable or scary. But that’s a norm and standard setting for so many people. It’s a luxury to only feel that sometimes. It’s my luxury. But instead of evading that feeling by shutting it out, let’s just try to be stronger and there for each other.

I love you beautiful, complicated and fucked up people. Let’s try to be better.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.