One Small Voice: Art of listening promotes civil discourse

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lynn Mandaville was Henika District Library Director in Wayland for 29 years, retiring in 2014 and since then has moved with her family to Chandler, Ariz. After considerable arm twisting by yours truly, she has consented to writing a column for

by Lynn Mandaville

As soon as we moved from Wayland to Chandler AZ,  I joined a weekly church discussion group. It was a nice way to meet some new folks and pass an evening. But because discussion topics are always structured, I found I wasn’t really getting to know anyone on more than a superficial level. So last week I decided to reach out on Facebook so I could know a few of them a little better, based on their posts and shares.

But what happened with one of them has given me pause. And then some.

This one person confirmed my request quickly enough, but only long enough to peruse my public information. Then he messaged me a quick note and unfriended me. His message stated that he had noticed a lot of political content on my page, something he likes to avoid across the board.  

That’s fine. I understand that. Some people just prefer to leave politics alone. But then he went on to say that he didn’t care for the content that referred to “his” president. Okay. That’s fine, too. I can respect personal preferences, even when I don’t agree with them.

I let it go. No hard feelings. Our relationship will be a politics-free zone.

But something still niggles at the back of my brain. Even though I’m not a fan of our 45th president, why did my discussion friend have to distinguish Trump as “his” president? I don’t like Trump, but he is THE president, and, as such, for better or worse, he “belongs” to all of us.

By referring to Trump as “his” president, my friend is furthering a division in this country that is clearly not constructive or healthy. It discourages constructive, adult discourse. It discourages any attempt at understanding an opposing point of view, any attempt at establishing an honest connection with someone whose experiences have led him to feel and believe something that is so at odds with his own.

Post-election talking heads said that the Democrats were out of touch with the majority, white voting public. And I agree. For so long, it feels like no one has been listening. As a nation we have been spouting, pronouncing, posting and tweeting as if our own voices are the only valid voices crying out in the wilderness. It seems we have an app for everything but listening. And we have become so self-centered in our points of view that we are isolating ourselves even on so-called social media.

So now I know what bothers me about “his” vs. “my” or “our” president. It’s the divisive implication that we share no common ground. That there is no reason to communicate because of our divergent ideas. Yet we share the most important common ground of all — our freedom of speech. But I think there should be a corollary freedom, to be heard. We should teach that in school — the art of civil discourse, the responsibility to listen when someone else speaks, especially when we don’t agree. We just might learn something.


  • Maybe he saw President Trump Derangement Syndrome in your Facebook page? I know we “deplorable” cretins are not on your level of political aloofness, and maybe the person saw what I did when reading this article.
    And his title is President Trump, not “Trump”. I had to stand 8 years of a Marxist President Obama, a president that led from behind and never knew a country leader to which he wouldn’t bow. He was a lightweight then and remains one today. But he was my president and I honored the office, regardless of the “little Marxist” occupying the office. I knew he would be a disaster, and he didn’t disappoint. Mrs. Clinton would have been 4 more years of no growth, giving billions away to other countries, and more economic disaster.

  • I liked your column very much, and will try to keep it in mind. It is not always easy for me to listen when confronted with the ideas espoused as exemplified in the comment above by Free Market Man*
    I wrote a recent column in which I asked for a defense of Pres. Trump, and got a comment attacking Hillary Clinton, without a word of support for The Donald.
    I hope to write columns that aren’t always about politics, but sometimes I feel like I must. I look forward to reading more from you, Lynn.
    Still he offers no insight into why he calls himself Free Market Man, and yet has nothing to say about Trump’s proposed tariff on Canadian lumber. SAD!

Leave a Comment