This is not about politics. I don’t like politics – and probably for one huge reason that reflects directly on a monstrous deficit in our society – we have forgotten how to communicate in a respectable way. The world appears to have become divided between those who attack and those who are offended. What ever happened to civil conversation in order to find greater awareness on topics that we don’t understand?
As for last night’s political debates – it not only makes me cringe as an American but also as a human being. I spent over 25 years working in the media and was trained in a time when impartiality was the main criteria for meeting our professional obligations. Integrity and fairness were the goal, so that by providing equal information on both sides of an issue, individuals could make their own decisions based upon their personal sense of inner values. However, I do not see that reflected in the media, or the world, today. News anchors readily express their own views about the stories they cover – the flash of shocking words taking precedence over the power of substance. Even in our society, I feel that we’re backsliding in our capacity to think for ourselves and weigh the pros and cons of the many issues that plague us. We cling too tightly to defending our own opinions as “right” instead of actually opening our minds to the possible value of other opinions.
A Dangerous Consequence
If I step back from the dynamics that I see at play here and try to take an objective look, I find a dangerous and ultimately harmful consequence to this trend. When people feel attacked they instinctively resort to becoming defensive. This not only results in people expressing themselves in a nasty way – but also persistently clinging to their side of the argument just to spite the naysayers. We feel like we have to hold obstinately to these beliefs, otherwise the other side wins. Modern society encourages this behavior – telling us to take a stand, speak up and fight for a greater cause. But what’s lost in the process is our own individual empowerment and the ability to think for ourselves. Subtly, we find ourselves crossing the line from an innocent personal conviction to aligning ourselves with a group with a greater agenda. But who is really pulling the strings behind that?
It’s not what you say – it’s how you say it
By all means, I think we should all be allowed to speak our truths – but we have been given the finer attributes of language in order to express ourselves with some finesse. Call upon a huge vocabulary, take notice of the tone with which you’re speaking, and utilize the powerful ability to exercise tact in your communications. This is not a battle of who can scream the loudest or leave the other person lying on the ground, broken and bleeding. This is truly our ability, and responsibility, to steer ourselves and society in a direction that promotes our greatest happiness and well-being. No doubt, different people will have different ideas of the best path to take us there – but those who have the ability to listen – and really hear what others have to say, will be able to make the most informed decision.
The ONE non-negotiable
Perhaps it’s idealistic and unrealistic to think that we will ever be able to come together in agreement on everything – but as the most evolved, thinking species on the planet we should at least allow each other the right to retain our dignity. But there is a personal responsibly that goes along with that right – we must keep our egos in check, watch out for arrogance and speak to others respectfully. The end decision on issues of importance lie with each of us, and us alone. I may choose to accept all – or only part – of what you’re saying, and that is my inalienable right. And in exchange for the expression of that right – I allow you to do the same.
Take it Back to Kindergarten
As adults we often fall under the illusion that we are all-knowing and untouchable – but every life touches another. Its impact is felt in the words we say and the things that we do. Becoming too smug and opinionated wreaks havoc on the basic qualities of goodness that we all learned as children – be kind, take turns, and share with others. Running for President – and appearing as a knowledgeable and intelligent person – is heady stuff. But deep in the heart of every individual, we know what really matters, expressing ourselves with simple, common decency. It is the highest reflection of what it means to be human. Yes, we can discuss the complicated issues that plague our time – but doing so with decorum is the greatest reflection of what it means to be a civilized people.
So today, before you begin to speak – choose your words carefully – and then allow yourself to truly hear what someone else is saying. Only then can we begin to make an informed decision.
Marci Wise is the award-winning author of Pain, Passion & Purpose. Copyright © 2015 marciwise.com. Material is copyrighted but free to repost as long as proper credit is listed, including our website address.