Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor emeritus. His column of personal opinion appears the first Saturday of every month. Reach him at [email protected] In the coming days, we’ll see lots of stories looking back over the crazy year that is about to end, but there are a couple of concepts I’m hoping we all can find time to examine as we look forward. At first glance, they might not seem all that important, but I happen to believe they’re critical to our future. And I hope you’ll weigh in.ListeningWe all need to listen more. I mean really listen. Really listening is a lost art. I know, for example, I could do a lot better at listening. So why is listening so difficult? The truth is, we’ve all been taught at a very young age to express ourselves but not taught how to listen. We are constantly encouraged to talk. As we grow older, we also are taught not to let others “walk all over you.” You have an idea? Say it forcefully and — whatever you do — don’t cower. Don’t … back … down.See the problem? The squeaky wheel always gets the attention. Yep. We’ve created a society of monsters who never really hear arguments for stuff we don’t agree with. Oh, we sometimes pretend we’re listening, but what we’re really doing is biting our lip, waiting until that other testa dura shuts his pie hole.