Friday, August 15, 2008

Let's talk amongst ourselves!

Ken just started subscribing to a publication called Bottom Line. It's pretty interesting, and there's usually something in there that catches my interest. In the same issue that he found the article about the benefits of journaling, one of the first articles I came across concerned talking about politics. How cool!
I've mentioned our discussion with a couple of young men in California. Again, very nice and bright guys. But when Ken asked the younger one what he plans on doing in the future, the response was, "Take down Microsoft." I pointed out that Bill Gates has given billions to fund research, and his goal is nothing more than to eradicate malaria, which kills millions every year. Gates is no longer running Microsoft, but "taking down" an entire company seems a little nihilistic to me. Ken and I talked later about how we hope the young man thinks about his goals and figures out how to present things a little more realistically. A better answer would have been, "To develop an operating system that is so superior to Microsoft's that everyone will want to buy IT instead." Simply wanting to destroy something--especially a juggernaut like Microsoft--is illogical and unreasonable, not to mention unlikely, and verging on anarchic.
This short article about talking about politics with others was really interesting to me, and a nice reminder of how to engage people in a mutually agreeable discussion. Advice on having an exchange of ideas stated with respect but without rancor. I know I can definitely be sarcastic at times--I know! Can you believe that?!--but I try not to be too nasty with my comments. I don't want to hit anyone over the head with a sledgehammer, I just like talking about things--but I stop talking when things descend into nothing more than antagonistic rhetoric.
The Public Conversations Project is located in Watertown, Massachusetts, and their goal is to encourage constructive conversations that reach across the divide that separates people. That is most obvious with political discussions these days, but these guidelines can apply to any argument-inducing conversation. Here are a few hints. The article's content is in bold print, mine is not. The entire 183-page paper can be downloaded for free at the Project's website.
Aim for mutual understanding. Your goal isn't to persuade others to come around to your viewpoint, it's to attempt to understand each others' views.
Think about your answer to a question before you respond and allow the other person time to formulate their response. Firing back immediately is apt to result in poorly thought-out responses, and possibly even lashing out with hurtful remarks.
Don't interrupt the other person. One of my pet peeves is when I'm trying to make a point and the person keeps interrupting me. It makes me very, very angry, and it's also very rude. The goal here is mutual respect and understanding, not to bully the other person into submission.
Avoid personal attacks or insulting labels. In other words, don't call someone a fascist, communist loving freak. Ha! This accomplishes nothing more than antagonizing the other person.
Share your hopes, dreams, and visions for the future. I find that we're all pretty much on the same page when it comes right down to things, and if people can talk about their goals for themselves and for the future, we might find more common ground than we realize.
Talk about life experiences. These are things that have shaped your views and feelings, and if the other person understands a little more about where you're coming from, they may also understand your perspective a little better. My pal Sherry and I exchanged a few emails during the Democratic primaries. She supported Senator Clinton, and one day she explained why. No details are necessary, but after I heard Sherry's story, I understood exactly why she was supporting the Senator. Sometimes all it takes is saying, "Okay. Here's what happened to me."
Talk about things that are clear to you, but also admit to finding some things complicated. There ARE some extremely complex issues out there, and unless you're running for office, you probably don't have a full grasp of all aspects of the issues. Thus the importance of a conversation that can result in an exchange of information.
Ask questions. Show that you are listening to the person, that you value their responses, and that you are taking their words into consideration. Be engaged in the conversation, not merely formulating your own response while the other person is talking. If you're thinking about what YOU want to say, you're not listening to what they're saying.
I'll add one here myself: don't be dismissive. Telling someone that they're insane, or that you find their opinions ridiculous and ignorant, is not conducive to good communication! <wink>
I do my best to practice most of these already (it's really nothing new...just the art of agreeable conversation and respectful debate, and my family has been doing it for years), and I intend to try to maintain the practice here. I know I'M passionate about what is going on, and I think that most of us are. But you won't find me calling anyone names or resorting to a dismissive attitude about mutually respectful comments. I firmly believe that such behavior accomplishes nothing, and that's not a place we want or need to be in right now.
It's going to be a wild ride for the next few months, so let's all hang on, and hang in there together. In fact, let's have a group hug! {{{HUG}}}
There, wasn't that nice? I know I feel better, and I hope you do, too.


buckoclown said...

I heard yesterday on NPR that there were 82 days left until the election.  Wish the candidates and their campaign camps could follow this advice :o)

krmprm said...

Very informative and you touched on several things
I found interesting.  The art of meaningful conversation
is becoming rare and with cell phone usage rising,  the
signals we once depended upon can not convey the talkers
meaning.  Body language, facial cues and instinct , for
example.  The eyes, the eyes are windows of the soul.
(I have a hard time conversing with anyone wearing
sunglasses, for instance.)   The exchange of ideas,
controversial or not, can start or end wars, and can
define the destiny of a nation.  Let's talk.    Pat

queeniemart said...

You need to be nominated for some committee here in J land to settle sqabbles!! I love this entry. You would really have a field day with my dad. He, like SO many others i know, talks over a person, calls people names based on their color, income level and supposed IQ, cusses a blue streak and will attempt to bully a person into being a Republican. My mom, in AZ, is one of those crazy ass flighty Republicans who will vote straight party ticket no matter WHO is on it....she hated Clinton with such a passion....and i, at 40, was a dumbass to them both for having my own opinion and being able to yell louder and use bigger words than them.



chat2missie said...

Hope you're enjoying your evening.

shrbrisc said...

lol I think everyone should be like us we disagree on things but we respect the right of the other person to have their opionions .. have a great weekend I love the cats ..

dbdacoba said...

About the young man who wants to take down Microsoft.  I could do another joutnal entry in an educated outsiders view of the modern corporate world.  That fellow is expressing an idealism that is prevalent these days - the David and Goliath goal.  It does not concern itself with building a better mouse trap.  It destroys through legal and financial means all under the umbrella of a poison called MSV, (Maximizing Shareholder Value). MSV is more important now than product, labor, customer service or even in some cases the law.  It is responsible for lay offs, out sourcing, cut backs in services (such as flights) the closing of banks, the foreclosures on property. People who take out other businesses whether successful or not are praised at board meetings, given special bonuses and awards at dinners.  Why wouldn't the kid want to take down the big one?

jmoqueen said...

*smiling*  ahhhhhhhhhhhhh that's better.  I like hugs lol :o)