Commentary: Be a good neighbor — be quick to listen, slow to speak

I don’t recall when I first heard the adage, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak.” It could have been when I was a teenager, having some teenage moment, and my mother giving me the look as she uttered those words through her clenched teeth…or it could have been my dad in one of those dad moments, sharing how I could win a room over or how to improve every relationship – personal and professional – I would have in the years ahead. Regardless of where I heard it, it is such great advice.

Especially in today’s climate.

I remember watching how President Reagan, a Republican and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, a Democrat who had served in Congress during the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations, despite their political differences, found common ground. They could disagree with each other, yet still have each other’s back. They put mission above self.

They were statesmen.

Now, I’m sure just by my saying they are statesmen will invoke some to say that I’m wrong, ignorant, naïve, was too young to know better, or maybe that I have no right to say someone is a statesman – that I should use the term statesperson. Maybe. But that’s not my point.

My point is they both publicly displayed civility and acted honorably despite having a difference in ideology.

In today’s environment, whether it be a local issue, like what’s written on a cookie, or a national issue like a border wall, so many would be better off going to the gym to get their exercise instead of jumping to conclusions that the “other side” is evil, bigoted, racist, sexist, and whatever other label dehumanizes the “enemy” to our own belief. This tactic of labeling the “other side” is a combat strategy – first widely deployed in Vietnam. The goal was to make the enemy less human so it would be easier to exercise maximum damage on the “other side.” In cases of combat, and a real enemy, it’s an effective strategy.

But a disagreement or an opposing view from someone else doesn’t make them our enemy.

Removing the face of the “other side,” labeling them, and then becoming a keyboard warrior, or grabbing a microphone, and tearing someone else down doesn’t build you up.

Here’s the reality — the “other side” is often our neighbor.

Local and national issues have provided a great opportunity for my wife and I to educate our daughters on different approaches. When I was serving in the Navy, it was clear I thought differently from some of my shipmates — but despite those differences, we all knew that we had each other’s back. After all, those quarters were tight — they were my very close neighbor. (For those who don’t know, all veterans don’t think alike.)

I gained a tremendous life lesson from that experience. Despite differences in race, religion, political views, we — for the most part — got along. Sure, we had our human moments — but we had each other’s back.

In a city in which I was born, Edmonds, it’s sad for me to see that some take to the keyboard instead of grabbing a cup of coffee with the “other side” to understand their point of view.

The world isn’t changed by politicians, but rather, person to person. Want to truly change this city for the better? Be quick to listen, and slow to speak.

— By Mike Schindler


11 Replies to “Commentary: Be a good neighbor — be quick to listen, slow to speak”

  1. Well said, Mike. I’ve challenged myself over the last 3 or 4 years to sit down with people whose positions or views I don’t entirely understand. A few times, I’ve contacted them and we’ve had coffee. Coffee’s not magic, but it sure brings a conversation that doesn’t happen in an internet/social media forum. We are neighbors, and it’s up to us to make it “for better.”


      1. These events are extremely useful. While they are not intended to solve all the issues they are intended to help people find ways to communicate better. Using the techniques learned in these sessions would help us all find out what are the real issues, what do others think about the issues and then seek some form of common ground. Thanks to My Edmonds News for hosting.


  2. Great commentary Mike. The freedom to speak out in this country, county and city is one not afforded to most citizens in our world. We should take that freedom very seriously and use it wisely, less someone or some group tries to take it away. Thanks too, for your service to the country.


  3. Clinton, you are spot-on Sir. Community grows for the better when we work to win the hearts and minds of others. And note, winning the heart and mind of another doesn’t necessarily mean you have convinced them to your side of an issue. It does mean you’ve gained their respect.

    When we start putting civility back into our conversations and interactions with others, we as a community will be stronger.


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