If you’ve been exposed to the news at all in the past few weeks, then you should be to some extent aware of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. During one such broadcast, the line stuck with me that, “People protest when they feel they aren’t being heard.” For whatever reason, this simple thought had never occurred to me, yet it made so much sense, causing me to consider further.

After some thought, I came to understand that, for me, feeling like I’ve been heard is a direct result of the value placed on my communication by the other parties involved. Another way to say this is respect. If successfully heard, I have added value to their understanding, and they are thus better equipped to take action that is mutually beneficial. We have also shown our interaction to be a worthwhile use of eachother’s time.

On the other side of the coin, when I feel as if I am not being heard, it is situational and depends greatly on intent. There is a lot of strength and vulnerability in the simple acceptance or denial of communication. Then, when you throw in power dynamics, it can exacerbate the effects of negative interaction. Ignorance and aggression easily snowball, until there is no longer incentive to add value; until there is no longer worth in eachother’s time.

Once there is a great enough feeling that you are not being heard, for any number of reasons, it can quickly reach a tipping point, where it will likely manifest as resentment, negative reciprocation, excommunication, or protest. In the case of protest, an individual or group is so frustrated with a lack of respect that they try to attract external attention to the broken dynamic through outcry. The hope here is that some of the external attention might be valuable enough to re-engage the other party who has lost interest in hearing out the first.

As I said earlier, it seemed so simple; nevertheless, it puzzled me as to why I had never considered this. Maybe my expanding the idea might serve others as food for thought, as the idea served me. Either way, thanks for hearing me out!

(photo credit: Lars Thomsen)