The US is building the most expensive wall in history. But it’s not the one on the front page of every newspaper. 

The proposed wall along the US Mexico border an expensive undertaking. The proposed budget allocation is a little under $6B. That’s a lot of money. In context, it represents less than 0.1% of total federal government spending. Spread over two years, it’s less than 0.05% of total federal government spending. It is a rounding error on a rounding error. When you consider the nearly 3.7M government contractors who haven’t been paid for nearly a month, the government has saved more than 21 billion by not paying those contractors in the past month. 

Clearly the fight isn’t about money. Whether the wall gets built or not is largely immaterial. 

The real wall that has already been built is inside the country. It’s the wall of political division, of hardened ideological positions. It’s the wall that exists when it becomes impossible to separate the message from the messenger. 

If you represent my ideological adversary, my response to you will not be conditioned by what you say, but who you represent in the narrative that’s going on in my head. 

In that world you might say something that I actually agree with, I’m going to disagree with you simply because you said it. In a world like that, there is no dialog, there is no listening. There is only confirmation bias, and distortion

There is really only one way to destroy that wall. It involves listening. But before you can listen, you need to know all of the different forms of listening. You might think there is really only one form of listening. You’re either listening or you’re not. But in fact there are 8 forms of listening.

1. Ignoring listening
You can talk all you want but nothing gets in. I am not interested in your problems, your requests, or your pleas. Don’t talk to me I’m a cold brick wall.

2. Partial listening
I’m listening as I do another task. I’m distracted. I may mumble a reply or absently nod my head. 

3. Selective listening
Selective listening involves listening for particular things and ignoring other parts of the conversation. We hear what we want to hear and pay little attention to or ignore parts of the conversation which we don’t want to hear

4. Know it all listening
As you try to tell me your story, I’m already filling in the blanks or offering your solutions. I know what the problem is and I have the solution. Stop talking already so you can go fix your problem and I can get on with the rest of my day. I’ve stopped listening and I’m thinking about what I’m going to say back to you.

5. Pretend listening

I pretend to listen but have not intention of actually doing anything you say. I do not actually take in anything that you say. Are you finished yet?

6. Active listening
I am engaged on our conversation. I paraphrase your words back to you and ask relevant questions. Some people think that active listening is the highest form of listening. It’s actually not. 

7. Empathic listening

I listen to go beyond sympathy for the speaker. I’m trying to truly understand how you are feeling, how you experience the world and events that unfold around you. Empathic listening means I’m willing to take a few steps in your shoes. It helps people feel heard and can be a corner stone to positive relationships.

8. Focused listening

I’m listening to you and I want to make sure you are being understood. I want you to feel understood by me. I truly internalize and understand your words. I’m not offering any advice or solutions just fully listening.