In my books, I have useful classroom lessons on helping students become better listeners, and I also have The Best Ideas To Help Students Become Better Listeners here on this blog.
The newest addition to that list is the transcript of a talk journalist Malcolm Gladwell gave on BBC radio. The BBC just published it, and its title is Viewpoint: Could one man have shortened the Vietnam War?
The story is about Konrad Kellen, who, among other things, did interviews with captured Viet Cong guerrillas for the United States to try to figure out what the “enemy” was thinking. It’s a short enough piece that students could read.
Here’s an excerpt:
he would say that his rethinking began with one memorable interview with a senior Vietcong captain. He was asked very early in the interview if he thought the Vietcong could win the war, and he said no.
But pages later, he was asked if he thought that the US could win the war, and he said no.
The second answer profoundly changes the meaning of the first. He didn’t think in terms of winning or losing at all, which is a very different proposition. An enemy who is indifferent to the outcome of a battle is the most dangerous enemy of all.
Now why did Kellen see this and Goure did not? Because Goure didn’t have the gift [of being a good listener].
Goure was someone who filtered what he heard through his own biases.