I used to think that just because my intentions were good and my heart was in the right place that I would get my message across, in some form or another. I used to think that logic and facts were infallible and irrefutable. I used to take for granted the fact that people wanted a better solution to a problem, and that they’d be willing to compromise if it benefited the greater good.
But, when we get emotional, or when we yell, or when we curse, or become otherwise impassioned, the message gets lost. When speech turns from presenting an argument to ad hominem attacks, people stop listening. When peaceful protests turn to riots and vandalism, you’re no longer a part of the solution. You’re no longer the bigger person. You’re no longer tolerant.
The first rule of thumb when it comes to getting your message across?
Consider your audience.
We all have our own idiomatic nuances that dominate our speech. We already adapt the ways we speak depending on our setting and who we’re around. We speak to our bosses and colleagues differently than we do our parents, our children, our lovers. We already understand that some messages are best presented one way to one person, and another way to another person.
Yet, when we get riled up, it can be hard to stay on message. It’s hard to remember your strategy. There are too many external variables that we can’t always predict, let alone control. Things don’t always go the way we want them to.
And once we start down a path of destructive behavior and speech, it’s hard to come back from. You cannot take back something once it’s already come out of your mouth. You can’t undo certain damage, whether it’s physical or emotional. And you can’t always assume that, even though you still believe in your message and you still think you’re making sense, the other party is hearing your logic through the vitriol.
It pays to be nice.
Take a lovers’ squabble. There’s a concern that’s had. One party presents it to the other. In one example, there’s yelling, personal attacks, and hurt feelings. The accused party shuts down, gets defensive, and can’t actually hear the argument through the chaos. Both parties leave upset. Nothing is resolved. No agreement is reached. And the issue will continue to be an issue.
Alternatively, using basic couples’ therapy techniques, the couple presents the issue in a way that does not attack the other. They speak in terms of facts, feelings, and perceptions, while being careful to give credit where it’s due and not point fingers of blame. The other party listens. Maybe they get defensive, but a dialogue happens. And from that dialogue comes understanding. And from that understanding comes empathy, and then positive change. The couple is stronger than ever before and they move along their path to happiness and fulfillment. They do this because they love each other and there’s mutual benefit in doing so. No good comes from one party being unhappy because they’re in it together. They suffer together, or they thrive together.
So, what does this have to do with anything?
There have been a ton of protests lately. People are upset, and they have valid concerns that they want to raise. However, the left seems to think that because their hearts are in the right place, they have the right to bully the bullies. I don’t know how far they think this strategy will get them, though.
It’s easy to call someone a bigot who doesn’t believe in gay marriage, or to call someone a “Trumptard” for having priorities that may be different from your own. But how do you expect people to respond to that? How will that conversation actually play out?
“You’re an idiot! Trump doesn’t care about you! He’s not one of you! He hates the lower class!”
“Interesting perspective. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I’d like to discuss this with you in greater detail.”
Instead, you get counter-attacks. You get name-calling that doesn’t progress the discussion in the slightest. You get distractionary tactics that lead people further and further from the original point. You get tempers, and you get a greater divide that what you started off with.
And that chasm that’s being driven straight through our country is getting wider and wider each day.
We need to fill the gaps, meet in the middle, and learn to listen to one another. We need to remember that our goals, while they may be personally motivated, affect all of us, regardless of what side of the political spectrum you sit on.
And we need to remember that no matter how terrible we think the other side is, or how pure we think our intentions are, we each have a unique view on our country and the world, and our life experiences vary greatly. There’s a real possibility that the other said, not only hasn’t considered your argument, but they’ve never even heard it.