General Question

wundayatta's avatar

Who must you listen to? Who should you listen to? Who do you listen to?

Asked by wundayatta (58604points) April 29th, 2009

I think that all of us place our opinions and morals in the center of reason. We may think we are at a certain distance from our perception of the average point of view, but for us, individually, it feels like the most reasonable way to think.

Therefore, we array the wide range of other opinions in terms of how close or far they are from our individual opinions. In order to be a reasonable person, it seems like it’s a good idea to listen to people around you. And maybe people around them, and maybe yet again further away from you.

However, it seems to me that there is a point at which most of us stop listening. The views that people hold are too far away for us to even be able to talk. For the Bush administration, Iranians and North Koreans were too far away. There was no point in talking to them. For me, there are many people in the United States who hold views that I think are very extreme. I don’t think there’s any point in talking to them.

So, do you think we are obligated to talk and listen to people we believe are extremists? What if those extremists represent a large portion of the population you interact with? What is a reasonable distance where you draw the line (if you draw it at all) beyond which, there’s no point in talking to someone?

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26 Answers

AstroChuck's avatar

My wife, ad nauseam.

AstroChuck's avatar

Just kidding, honey.

TaoSan's avatar

me, me and me

oratio's avatar

I think that if you have a problem with someone, it can only be helped by talking to them.

I have never seen the point of kicking out ambassadors or removing them. It’s not like they stop talking to each other. They do it through other countries embassies or by just picking up the phone. It’s an official cold shoulder that amounts to nothing.

A problem is that by talking to them officially you validate their position. That’s the reason no one wanted to talk to Arafat for a long time. The only solution was to talk to him, as a representative of the palestinians.

I don’t like Hamas, but I don’t think there is anything won by ignoring them.

I don’t think anything will keep the Iranians from building nuclear power plants, cause frankly, they need them. It would be better maybe to step in and offer to give them a hand, and work out international inspections of their facilities.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I think listening to others point of view is quite valuable. But when their point of view starts persecuting others then I know longer feel obligated to listen. (a caveat would be if I was in the position to help “the others” then I would of course feel obligated to listen so I can help out but more often than not these are just rants or horrible personal lifestyles). I also no longer feel obligated to listen if someone is using force or dominance of some sort to press their point of view upon me.

I think that it is extremely important to entertain others opinions or how would we grow intellectually? Sometimes their opinions just serve me in that they make me believe even stronger in my own belief systems but sometimes I learn new information and begin to think about things differently. I very rarely change my own opinion “on-the-spot” but sometimes it’ll spark me and then in awhile, after giving it consideration and seeing how the new opinion sits within my lifestyle, I might change my opinion.

I also think that many of us are obligated to talk & listen to extremists, especially when they make up a large portion of society. For example people from various ethnic cultures. We must listen to those from the “dominant” culture so we can function daily. Often times people from the “dominant” culture have lifestyles and points of view that are extremely different from those ethnic cultures but we are required to listen to them because often they are our bosses, our co-workers, our neighbors, our grocers, etc…

Harp's avatar

The dividing line for me is the sincerity of the person, not how divergent his views are from mine. If I feel that the person is not being forthright with me or is trying to manipulate me, that’s a deal breaker. But if he’s speaking sincerely, I’ll listen.

I may know early on that the person is basing his opinions on blatantly false premises and that I’m unlikely to be swayed by his opinions. But real listening, deep listening, involves looking beyond what the person says into how he thinks, what drives him, what it would be like to be him. I’m especially interested in getting this kind of insight into people who are not like me.

What I’m listening to may not be at all what the person thinks he’s telling me.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t think I ‘must’ listen to anyone, if given the choice…but I should listen to my boss, for example or the daycare of my children, etc. as that’s in my or my family’s best interest…who DO I listen to? myself, my partner, my best friend, my children, and VERY few others

oratio's avatar

I totally and utterly misread the question. It was meant as talking to people with extreme views in general I gather. Well, it works too.

DeanV's avatar

I also misread the question. I thought it was about music.

BookReader's avatar

…i like to feel the words- if i can’t, then i may try later or not…free will…

Aethelwine's avatar

I like to believe that I am a well rounded person. I listen to all types of music. Except country, that’s too extreme for me. ;)

oops! Misread the question too.

fireside's avatar

Without discussion, I don’t see how there can be any movement towards consensus. Attempts to alienate a person, group or country by ignoring them and refusing to talk only serves to add weight to their ideas – no matter how outrageous they may seem.

However, I also feel that discussion needs to be held honestly and without games or trickery. When someone does not approach the discussion honestly and is intent on nothing but their correctness or righteousness, then I don’t see value. Without personal honesty, no amount of discussion will be fruitful unless the discussion leads to a reconsidering of that stance.

Consultation is an important part of the Baha’i faith:

“Man must consult on all matters, whether major or minor, so that he may become cognizant of what is good. Consultation giveth him insight into things and enableth him to delve into questions which are unknown. The light of truth shineth from the faces of those who engage in consultation. Such consultation causeth the living waters to flow in the meadows of man’s reality, the rays of ancient glory to shine upon him, and the tree of his being to be adorned with wondrous fruit. The members who are consulting, however, should behave in the utmost love, harmony and sincerity towards each other. The principle of consultation is one of the most fundamental elements of the divine edifice. Even in their ordinary affairs the individual members of society should consult.”


charliecompany34's avatar

listen to your kids—it’s a must.
listen to your mother: she really does know.
listen to your father: he has wisdom.
listen to your heart: you’ll make the right decision every time.
listen to your spouse: if you’re in bed with him/her night after night, it prevents from having to sleep on the couch.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@charliecompany34 I’ve always loved that one lurve!

breedmitch's avatar


YARNLADY's avatar

I clicked on this because I thought it was about listening to music. Well, I take it you actually mean who’s guidance and advice do we accept. I’m very eclectic. I used to read everything I could get my hands on. I still watch as many reports on TV, and read as many reports on the internet as I can fit into my day. To sum it up, I consult as many sources as I feel necessary, and come up with a consensus.

DeanV's avatar

@YARNLADY: Funny that you say eclectic. I would consider my musical taste somewhat eclectic.

I still think it’s about music…

wundayatta's avatar

@YARNLADY, actually it comes from a political conversation. I don’t feel it is necessary to talk to Republicans. My justification for that was that they are too extreme to be worth talking to (see Senator Specter, e.g.).

However what @fireside just said above shows me something else that I hadn’t thought of. Fireside wrote:

However, I also feel that discussion needs to be held honestly and without games or trickery. When someone does not approach the discussion honestly and is intent on nothing but their correctness or righteousness, then I don’t see value. Without personal honesty, no amount of discussion will be fruitful unless the discussion leads to a reconsidering of that stance.

It made me realize that I don’t think Republicans are very likely to reconsider their stances. In my experience, far too often, they do not approach discussion honestly. Bush, Limbaugh, Gingrich, and on an on. These are not people I trust as far as I could throw them.

However, I think that my view here is probably not shared by many people. I think that people would say I should talk to Republicans, at the very least, because they are a significant portion of the US population, but also because they aren’t as dishonest or as bad (in terms of policy) as I think they are.

Anyway, I guess I asked the question somewhat confusingly. I was just wondering where people would draw the line about who they are willing to talk to, and who they think are too dishonest to be worth talking to. I wanted to know this in a relative way, not an absolute way. I was hoping to get a sense of how different another person has to be before other people won’t talk to them.

LostInParadise's avatar

I will listen to anyone who is willing to take my views seriously. That does not imply a willingness to change, just a willingness to hear me out and take what I say seriously. That is what I offer to the other person and I expect reciprocity.

fireside's avatar

@LostInParadise – I agree with that.

@daloon – I was actually surprised at the change in Newt Gingrich’s tone over the past few years. He was somebody who I once viewed much as I currently do Rove, but the last couple of times I have listened to him, he seems to have have been humbled.

mattbrowne's avatar

In the book: “Revolutionary Wealth” by Alvin & Heidi Toffler 2006 Chapter 19, FILTERING TRUTH, page 123 lists six commonly used filters people use to find the “truth”. They are:
1. Consensus
2. Consistency
3. Authority
4. Mystical revelation or religion
5. Durability
6. Science

Toffler: “Science is different from all the other truth-test criteria. It is the only one that itself depends on rigorous testing.” They go on: “In the time of Galileo the most effective method of discovery was itself discovered. The invention of scientific method was the gift to humanity of a new truth filter or test, a powerful meta-tool for probing the unknown and—it turned out—for spurring technological change and economic progress.”

I listen to people who qualify for one or several of Toffler’s truth filters, especially number 3 and 6, but the other factors are also important to me.

Coloma's avatar

I respect the opinions of what I consider a select handful of life strategy gurus, mostly I just allow life to lead, unfold, in it’s infinite wisdom.

I think most people are addicted to information overload…meh…too many opinions just muddy the waters.

Subconsciously most people will always go with the answers they want to hear, be true, on a subliminal level.
Opinion and information seeking is really just a ridiculous excercise in futility as the deck has already been stacked on a level below most folks awareness. lol

wundayatta's avatar

@Coloma I agree. There’s a question about whether someone is stalking going on right now, and I wasn’t at all clear why the person asked it. Either they wanted to confirm that they were doing the wrong thing, or they wanted to be tortured. I suppose they could have been hoping someone would approve of the behavior.

In any case, I didn’t think they really wanted an opinion about right and wrong. I thought they were looking for something else. Maybe a way out. Or logic that would help them get out. I think the stalking issue is a red herring. Not the real question. But I’m not sure what the real question is.

Coloma's avatar


Yep..very insightful of you.

You are a very bright person. ;-)

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