Actively Listening Past TL;DR

Relationships between humans become complicated in face-to-face communication when there is little use of emotional intelligence, little cognitive understanding of what is going on in a conversation and little ability to engage positively in conflict with another person.

So, in the digital space, tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) becomes a shorthand way of not listening to arguments we’d rather not hear.

Avoiding bad news and curating a social media feed becomes a way of limiting information that we feel is unpleasant and likely to lead to internal conflicts—or external ones.

And emotional intelligence goes out the window with flame wars, spam commentary and useless “noise.”

So, what’s the average person to do to combat all of this?

The way to actively listen online is too do the things that aren’t sexy:

  • Read the long, laboriously written article that lays out an argument that you can’t follow.
  • Watch a YouTube video—or better yet a TED Talk—covering an area where you have no knowledge.
  • Develop a sense of that which is “noise” and that which is “valuable” rather than throwing up your hands in the air and resorting to the old trope of “what’s the world coming too.”

Do these things successfully and you will find that actively listening through the digital noise is the same skill set that you have to engage with to actively listen through the face-to-face noise.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

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