Listening to Understand v Listening to Reply

Big Red Car here. Oh, baby, it rained hard and the sky is clear, that Mediterranean sky kind of clear. Cool, sweet and sunny.

And YOU are not here, why? Why? Get down to the ATX!

Today we have a problem — folks are listening just enough to reply and not enough to actually understand the other person’s viewpoint.


Much of what passes for conversation today is held on blogs and other sources of information and education which are enriched by the ability for readers to comment.

The comments are likely as interesting or more than the blog post itself.  That is certainly true on The Boss’s favorite blog,, where Fred Wilson noted Venture Capitalist, deep thinker and all around good guy plays host to the most thoughtful, intelligent and polite salon of commentators in the startup ecosystem.  If you are not reading Fred (owner of the bar, like Cheers) and his commentators, you are missing something.

The comments are incredibly insightful and the commentators are often persons whose expertise in that particular jewel of technology, venture capital or human nature is world class.

Sometimes Fred gets 500-1,000 comments on a particular subject.

This is the top 1% of the blogosphere.

This is dialog at the top end of the food chain and it is powered by Disqus which The Boss thinks is the best comment management system. The Boss knows Daniel Ha and likes to say nice things about him secondarily because he regularly drinks his beer at SXSW but also because he genuinely loves Disqus and DH is founder and CEO of Disqus.

Give The Boss a beer and he will talk your book.


The nature of the blogosphere, even on such hallowed ground as, is reply v reply v reply.  The threads get long and the conversation becomes very interesting.  There is both an element of direct participation by a cast of regulars and there are eavesdroppers who listen for years before hitting the “Comment” button.

The dialog is just that — comment, reply, reply, reply.

People read enough to understand the previous comment and respond to the comment with their own comment.

They understand just enough to reply.


The bigger challenge is to understand the subject and The Boss often finds himself doing a bit of research to understand the subject. Say Fred Wilson is talking up one of his portfolio companies, Etsy is a good example, and you don’t really know anything about it.

You go to the website.  You read a bit about its history. In the comments instead of replying, you ask a question and one of the brilliant commentators there will ‘splain to you and Lucy how the cow eats the cabbage.

In this fashion, you listen to understand perhaps you reply.

In America today, in everything we do, we need to be listening to understand rather than just listening to reply.

Don’t understand how the Federal Reserve works? Read a damn book. Get an MIT podcast for free.

Don’t understand how the NCAA got to run March Madness? Research the subject.

Don’t understand how the social media works together? Surf the Net.

Don’t understand why Putin doesn’t consider it a slur to be told he’s “so 19th century?” Read some history and learn about the Golden Age of Russia and Catharine the Great (18th century chick in charge of Russia who Putin wishes he could date now that he’s single and out threatening his neighbors).

Listen to understand!

It’s OK to listen to reply. You are entitled to do whatever you want to do. Big Red Car stands for freedom, ya’ll. But every so often when the inspiration strikes you, listen to fully understand a subject.

Coldplay – X&Y (

But, hey what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car! On Earth as it is in Texas, ya’ll!


12 thoughts on “Listening to Understand v Listening to Reply

  1. Right on track BRC, and appreciate the tip of the hat to AVC. Hey, that’s where I met the boss.

    Heading down to TX in September… hoping you’ll keep one cold for me.

    • .
      Send me some dates and I will safeguard them. I like to go to the beach in September because it’s deserted. BBQ for you, my friend.


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