Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tone Matters

We've all heard the saying, "Let's agree to disagree"

Perhaps, you've even said it on occasion.

I have observed (much more so) since I mounted a campaign and won public office earlier this year what the new spirit of "Let's agree to disagree" means.

In today's world - "Let's agree to disagree" should read...

Let's agree that I am right and you are wrong and nothing you say will remotely change my mind and further, I don't even respect the idea that anyone who disagrees with me is (sane - moral - you-fill-in-the-blank) SO you must be an idiot.

Maybe that is dramatic but that is the vibe I get these days and it is unbelievably sad. Sad but not any way discouraging me and it should not discourage you.

We can change this.

One full week removed, I want to quickly reference a "conversation" I had with someone on an Internet forum. The tone of the "conversation" fluctuated from righteous to defensive to wow - someone with a different experience and frame of reference does have something intelligent to say. Throughout the exchange - it was exhausting and at times felt tedious but it was OH SO NECESSARY. We finished the conversation not having "won each other over" or singing kumbaya but we commended each party for the willingness to have the difficult conversation and went on with our lives. Enlightened. We even influenced others who watched silently and (not so silently) as it played out right there on a Facebook comment string.

We must come to place where we can speak or exchange ideas that are wildly different from ours and walk away uninjured.

It's possible.

Here's how I go about it... maybe can adopt one or all of these suggestions.

1. Be open

This seems so obvious but must be said. Go into a conversation or forum to learn and hear. This is especially true if you troll the Internet on sites you know contradict your views. I find that when I interact with people from a different point of view it strengthens me and sharpens my view. Sometimes - I even learn something and change my view.

2. Think about learning/teaching, not winning

Most of us have the capacity to pass or absorb knowledge - that should be the objective when engaging in conversations especially with those who think differently than you do. Do you really think "facting" someone to death and calling them stupid for not getting it will further your view or cause?
3. Be aware of your language

This is big. There are so many buzz words or phrases out there today that start fires. Race Card. Liberal. Conservative. Religious Right. Illegals. I could go on and on.

We all know the danger of using language unwisely. Rush Limbaugh, James Carville, Lou Dobbs and many others do it all day and make a great living at it. Don't fall into this trap. Be aware and informed of the origins and true meaning of the words and/or phrases you say or write.
Surely there are more techniques for navigating this but these are three I use.

Actually, there is one more. Micah 6:8.

"The Lord has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you; to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others and live humbly, obeying your God."

That is the New Century Version translation - I use an abbreviated paraphrase to remember

Act Justly - Love Mercy - Walk Humbly

When I remember that every time I enter these exchanges the outcome is considerably different.

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