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

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