Posted by: minnow | May 14, 2013

Humm…And the Point Is?

I recently did a tiny bit of sparring with a friend of one of my children on a FB post.  I got off my soap box by saying that I didn’t want to burn any bridges toward getting to know him better, implying that I felt I was being a bit direct with my comments and was afraid the criticism would drive him away.  After I left that conversation I realized I rarely take the criticism of my ideas or arguments personally.  Unless the other person calls me names or begins using vulgar language to describe my thinking or position I am rarely offended.  At the same time, I realize many other people, perhaps even most other people, function quite differently.

I’m not sure which came first over sensitivity to criticism or maligning a person’s character , but the two seem to be tied together.  If we see ourselves as bearers of the truth but are unable or unwilling to answer questions put to us by others the mere act of being questioned can be perceived as an offense.  The default response almost always becomes a need to find fault with the messenger instead of constructing a reasonable counter argument to the message.   Now some labels (a form of name calling) help us understand a person’s position but when they are not self-imposed (a name we call ourselves), labels are often used as put downs.  Add a few negatively charged adjectives and suddenly our egos are more valuable than understanding the issues and feeling superior more important than solving problems.

I understand how easy it is to slip down the slope toward hostile verbal sparing.  The more stuck on talking points a person seems and the more unwilling an individual is to research, use logic, and reason out an issue, the more frustrated I feel trying to engage in conversation with them.  Snark and sarcasm come far to easily for me.  And, on numerous occasions I have felt the temptation to call someone a nincompoop and be done with it.  However, not too long ago my son received a private message from someone who was following one of his threads on which just such a discussion was ensuing.  To his credit my son kept laying out his reasoned response and continued to pose questions even though they remained unaddressed by the other person in the discussion.  The private message encouraged and thanked my son for his willingness to keep challenging the prejudices, judgments, and rhetoric from his opposition without falling into name calling and vulgar labeling.  That woman’s message has served as a reminder to me  that while we will rarely sway a person so deeply entrenched in a specific point of view other people may be watching.  Other people, too personally attached to an issue, or not certain of what they think, or questioning their own long held beliefs, might benefit from our willingness to advocate for truth, dig for answers, and speak up even if at times it feels like we’re speaking to a brick wall.  The timid bystanders, wounded on-lookers, and questioning observers are why refraining from name calling, doing my research, and addressing the questions I’m asked are important to me.

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