Tuesday, January 24, 2017

When Everyone Else is Screaming

It is relatively rare for me to engage in debates, any longer. My 40+ years of experience in mouth-to-mouth combat is that we rarely win over people’s minds and hearts by arguing with them. Typically such debates merely polarize the combatants (telling word, eh?), rather than winning over those with whom we are speaking. I am not suggesting that I do not have strong convictions for which I am ready to passionately defend or explain; only that I rarely see an opportunity to actually have a conversation where we seek to persuade, rather than browbeat.

My experience is that people have come to many of their convictions and positions via fear and anger or past hurts and disappointments. When this is the case, deductive logic, philosophical arguments, theological assertions, and history lessons, aren’t of much use. If there is to be a meaningful conversation in such a situation, it usually must begin at the psychological level, and most people just don’t want to go there, as they are convinced their emotional reactions are logical arguments. Maybe if we sought to first befriend others, or at least to develop an authentic rapport, there would be more possibilities for getting down to their real issues. Anyway-

What do we do when everyone around us is screaming?

A soft answer turns away wrath. –Solomon

If you believe you must speak with those whom are screaming, remember the Wisdom of Solomon. Trust me. If you will keep speaking softly (or hold off on using caps lock), 7 out of 10 times the decibel levels will fall and you just might have an opportunity for a conversation.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you. -St Paul

If you’re finding that most every day you are lobbing mouth-grenades on Facebook, at the office, wherever, you may want to reflect on your ambitions. If your life is defined by arguing with others, how about taking a break from “Tongue-fu!” and spending time on making your life the argument for what you believe. You will be amazed by the conversations your life will elicit.

 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. –St James

Tell me exactly how peaceable we are when spit is flying out of our mouths and you can see our pulsating jugular from 10 yards away? How gentle are we when everything about our demeanor and words scream. “I want to throttle you”? (There’s a difference between being stern and being mean-spirited.) Is there anything about us that says, “I am truly listening to you,” or “I am easily entreated”? Which all begs the question: What is the source of our wisdom? Is it from above or from elsewhere?

When someone urinates on what you hold sacred, pleasantries are idiotic and disingenuous. Got it. But think about this: Do we want to win this person over, to disabuse them of illusions, to help them come to the truth? Or do we wish to make sure they see that they are numbskulls? What is our intended outcome? If you want to fight, have at it. But if we want to win people over, we may want to change our communication strategies … and our attitudes.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2015

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Stop the Anecdoche

Anecdoche (pronounced: ANEC-doc) is a conversation where everybody is talking but nobody is listening, which begs the question - if nobody is listening then is it a “conversation” or simultaneous monologues? If all we are doing is tossing back a few and having a word-fest, maybe anecdoche is okay. When the discussion is centered upon a disagreement or conflict of some sort, however, anecdoche will get us to places worse than nowhere.  

You think that adults would have enough life experience to realize that until The Other senses that he has been heard then all of our talking and arguing is a waste of energy and oxygen. But, for example, when you consider our present national political debates, you realize ... Silly me. 

“Come on Wilson. I prove I have listened by answering every question and rebutting every assertion with facts and logic, and he still won’t listen.”

While you may have dealt with his spoken questions and disagreements, my experience is that people often only reveal the outer layer of their conflicts and issues. Sometimes this is because they want to see how you are going to react before going deeper. Sometimes this is because they are only aware of the immediate breakdown but not the underlying issues that led to the breakdown; issues such as past offenses being smuggled into the present conflict, conflicts of belief systems and mindsets, as well as unspoken expectations. To get at these requires active listening, which means asking questions that take us deeper.

Another issue that clogs up our ears is where we pigeon hole the person(s) with whom we are seeking to communicate. Because you are x, you believe and feel y, which makes you a z. Really? As you haven’t asked me a single question and taken the time to hear me out, how would you know? You don’t want to talk with me; you want to talk to your projections.

I am an individual, not a sociological statistic. I am me - not “them.” Sure, generalizations can be a handy short cut in conversations. However, when we fail to test them for accuracy, we run the risk of projecting onto an individual beliefs and attitudes he doesn’t possess. You don’t like it when people do this to you, so don’t do it to them. (See The Golden Rule.)

There is no communication and, therefore, no potential for resolution, for a coming together of minds, or for healing where The Other doesn’t see, hear, and feel that we are listening to him … and visa versa. If we’re not going to go there, not take the time to truly listen to each other, then we need to keep quiet.  If not, if we choose to barge forward and let loose a barrage of words at each other, all we are doing is creating possibilities for further misunderstandings and relational breakdowns.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2017