Monday, November 24, 2008

Say What You Mean

If the fictional heroes of Batman and Superman can resolve their fundamental philosophical differences to work together, surely most people can share their views and build bridges without it ending up in a shouting match. Don't cha think? And it all comes down to one simple real life skill. Conflict resolution.

How have we suddenly lost the art of conflict resolution (CR)? Its gone for 90% (that's a made up number) of the population. Remember when we could walk up to someone and say what we mean without it coming off uncomfortable, passive-aggressive or just downright aggressive? Maybe CR disappeared with chivalry, but I think its the invent of internet conversations - we'll include email in there too - that has nailed its coffin shut. As such, lets address written CR first.

Here is the problem and it happens a million times a day (another made up number). Someone writes a thought. Lets say, at the very least, its meant for response. Could be an email, an invite or maybe even a political blog. You disagree with the thought or premise, so what do you do? Well, if you are like most Americans, you go black or white.

White: No response. You don't say anything. You don't want to be rude. You don't want to cause a fuss. Fill in the blank, but you think that makes you nice.

Black: You kill a fly with a bazooka. Your response is literally meant to maim or kill someone who incidentally offended you. Sometimes this is simply a lack of commonly shared values that leads to the offensive moment, but the effect is much the same. You're that truthful person and you're proud of stating the TRUTH.

So, what is the other option? Gray. Gray is a lovely color, don't you think? So how do you answer Gray?

Gray: Lets address the "Don't Rules" of gray before we address the "do rules."
  1. Don't tell the other person they are wrong.
  2. Don't call them stupid.
  3. Don't attack them personally
I think if people just followed those three simple rules, "Do Rules" would be superfluous. But for the sake of argument, lets take a look
  1. Share your opinion as if you were sharing it for the first time (instead of as a response)
  2. Only say something if you'd be willing to say it with that person standing there
  3. Comment positively on their opinion, even if its only their right to make it.
I don't want to get too deep here, but jot those down in your Citizen Hero Notebook and see how it goes. Sharing your opinion doesn't have to be confrontational or a fight. It can just be an exchange of ideas.

I always remember a quote from a church video as a kid. It said, "I'm not trying to convince you that what I think is right. I'm just sharing what works for me." Well said.

We'll make today's blog short in the hopes that more people will take it to heart and try to share more opinions with less aggravation. Share your thoughts with the world!