Column: A little more listening and a little less talking

by Peggy Bakken – Sun Newspapers

The inauguration is over, and it’s full speed ahead for the President Trump administration. Here in Minnesota, the Republican-led Legislature is in full swing with four weeks under its belt. Gov. Dayton is standing up for his agendas and priorities – many in direct contrast to Republicans. Are we back to business as usual?

I hope not.

The raucous – and sometimes just downright nasty – political shouts, sound bites and memes of the past election cycle have reminded me of a golden piece of advice. Now that the dust has settled a bit, I have an observation about us:

We do not discuss or debate issues anymore. I yell at you, and call you a name. You yell back and insult my lineage. Is this really doing anyone any good?

One of the best selling business advice books of all time,  “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey, focuses on a few key tenets of business guidelines, which can also be easily applied to everyday life.

The fourth of Covey’s seven is simply, “Seek to understand, then be understood.”

Imagine what our political and government scene would be if everyone followed that six-word commandment.

Those who are bent on dismantling Obamacare could hear from individuals who have actually been better off under the ACA. This could broaden their perspective as they look to address the massive problems that swirl around our 21st century health care system. Staunch ACA supporters could benefit by understanding the economic issues the act has created.

Imagine if people in the metro area would actually listen to the concerns of those living in greater Minnesota. In the Twin Cities, we are in this massive boom – construction, new businesses and newly created jobs everywhere.

What if we stopped to think about small communities that just lost their one large employer? What if we took a moment to listen to farmers who are dealing with substantially lower commodity prices?

We seem to all share pride in our statewide treasures. We’ve got the North Shore Drive. We’ve got the scenic rolling hills of Lansboro or Cannon Falls, and breathtaking Lake Pepin. We’ve got petroglyphs to the southwest and the best canoeing in the country to the north. And, how about watching the sunset over Lake Minnetonka.

Preserving, protecting and promoting these wonders is good for our souls and our tourist industry.

But we’ve also got a lot of corn. Corn is important. Maybe all of us metro folks could benefit by listening to a farmer telling us why he’s struggling to produce that crop of corn each year. And maybe we all could listen to Cargill as to why free and open trade to other countries is vital to our farm economy.

This listening thing needs to apply to all sides of an issue. People who are environmentalists can learn by listening to families in towns where the mine or factory was shut down because of strict EPA rules, and the impact on their lives. Maybe that could prompt us to find a way to help those families make a quality living and still protect our great natural resources.

People in greater Minnesota could listen to metro leaders, and acknowledge that three-fourths of the state’s Gross Domestic Product is generated by the metro. Sometimes what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

It would be great if all of our leaders agreed that 2017 is a year they will listen a little more, and talk a little less. Seek first to understand – that’s a pretty simple premise.

Just saying. Or should that be, just listening?

Contact Sun Newspapers Executive Editor Peggy Bakken at [email protected]