Friday, November 27, 2015

Can We Talk?


BEGIN RANT.

 

Did your heart just sink?
 

Mine does every time I see those words--and I seem to see them more and more. In fact, it feels like every time I go on Faceback or Twitter there’s an endless stream of links to the outrage du jour. The initial rant is promptly followed by rants in response. And then rants in defense of the right to rant. And then rants in defense of the right to be angry about other people’s rants. And then meta rants, which I guess is where I come in.
 

I know--we all know--that ranting is the result of fear, frustration, outrage, anxiety--or, yes, sometimes just general anti-social acting out--but mostly it’s about stuff people feel strongly about and want other people to…to…
 

Well, this is the problem, isn’t it? When someone jumps up on a soapbox it’s because they are moved to speak about important issues or valid concerns. Certainly important or valid to them (though mileage may vary for the rest of us). We should assume, it is only fair to assume then, that the author/orator is hoping for some productive result. Like people will change their votes or stop posting nekkid pictures or donate to a worthy charitable institution or quit abusing semicolons or adopt a pet NOW.
 

The problem is, when someone resorts to screaming and kicking, the audience inevitably focuses attention on the messenger rather than the message. If there is a discussion, it becomes a discussion about the delivery system and not the content.
 

Blaming, berating, scolding, however righteous, is not conducive to conversation. It’s not productive. It does not persuade. It does not change hearts and minds. A speech is not conversation. A rebuttal blog is not dialog. Let alone détente. And unless you’re the dictator of a small, isolated country with an economy based on the export of cucumber bath gel, you’re not going to force people to do things your way no matter how clever and cutting you are from behind your monitor screen.
 

We all have the “right” to rant. That’s beside the point. Does ranting serve a useful purpose? Because if it’s just venting, then it’s essentially a temper tantrum, and however much we may sympathize with other people’s need for a nap, it’s not a good idea as a society to condone or encourage temper tantrums. Communication via shrieking provocative statements at each other is not communication, it’s verbal assault.
 

What happened to our ability to discuss ideas without making everything personal?
 

I partly blame social media for our culture of rant. Social media is predicated on the idea that we all have something important and interesting to say--and that there is an audience waiting for our words. There really isn’t, so maybe that’s where a lot of the frustration comes from. The dawning suspicion that nobody is listening. Because everyone is talking at the same time.
 

Listening has become a lost art, and that’s not good for the future of intelligent conversation. Let alone for solving any of the world’s problems.
 

When I was a kid (yes, I know, blah, blah, blah) and I would get into the occasional school yard rumble, the adults would advise “looking at the situation through the other person’s eyes.” That’s not a phrase we hear a lot these days, and I think it’s because we’re all gazing at the world from the POV of selfie sticks.
 

Here’s a crazy thought. Maybe the next time we have something important on our minds we could begin a conversation and ask questions rather than start by informing everyone of our conclusions on the matter while assigning motive and blame? We have a lot of tools for communication these days. Maybe once in a while we could try…talking to each other?
 

 

20 comments:

  1. Good luck with that thought. I follow several people on social media for the sole purpose of finding out when new books will be coming out. Instead, rants seem to be taking over and I despise it.I won't buy any more books by a few of them because although I like their writing, I don't support divas.

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    1. I know. There's a misguided notion that being accessible to readers means never shutting up about every thought that crosses your mind.

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  2. Amen. No problem in the world (or in our country, or even in our little genre) will be solved in 140 characters or less. It certainly won't be solved by name-calling or finger-pointing or pithy little memes, and yet those are the things that pass for "discussion" these days, regardless of the issue. It's aggravating and disheartening.

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    1. Yes, it is. And I think it plays a role in the type of violence that seems to fill so much of every news cast.

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  3. "....“looking at the situation through the other person’s eyes.” That’s not a phrase we hear a lot these days, and I think it’s because we’re all gazing at the world from the POV of selfie sticks."

    Yes. That. And, though I like to think I'm perfect, *cough* I'll admit to being as guilty as the next at times, though I like to think, I rise above the fray for the most part. I hope I do, anyhow.

    But, talking is the only part of the answer. Listening has to be the other part of the equation. Maybe that's the skill that really needs the fine tuning.

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    1. Yes. Increasingly a lost art, I'd say.

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  4. I have to admit; I have ignore down to an art form; I know that carries its own problems; But that said; I just let the ranters rant until they blow themselves out; Luckily most of my friends are nonranters; There are a few however; I choose not to be dragged into the fray; Long live the semicolon.

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    1. The semicolon was created for a reason! To respect the semicolon is to respect education and civilization! ;-)

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    2. Hello anarchy my old friend; May I play with your semicolon?

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  5. I heart you so hard, Josh. I find that most of the time when people are "talking" it's just one person waiting for their turn to speak. Part of it of course is that so many of us feel isolated and unheard to some degree or another, so we scream out, perhaps inappropriately. But rather than jump to conclusions and start a battle or a cold war, wouldn't it make more sense to remember that the other is a person, and as such, deserving of compassion and their own humanity.

    I don't know how we expect to survive against violent extremists, when so many of us are just as rigid and blinded by their own personal truths that they won't look at anyone else's.

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    1. It's fascinating isn't it? We pride ourselves on being so much more educated and sophisticated and sensitive than previous generations, but when I watch the nightly news I see no indication of any of these things. In fact, I see a society that is less tolerant. Our idea of sensitivity is to find more things to be less tolerant about! :-D

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  6. well said. There is no discussin or even sharing of varying views, its all ME ME , How can I belittle the others to destroy credibility or deny their perspective. im not sure when it started but I have been watching this progression for years. Its a sad state of life when we no longer hear one another, or share thoughts of varying degrees with respect and objectivity it respects.
    I have also noted so many couples and families at resteraunts, malls all sorts of outings; texting on their phone or chatting on cells without regard to present companions. Sometimes I think I have awakened, in an alien world. hah! or maybe I'm just getting old?

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    1. Yes. We sit down in a crowd of people and turn on devices that permit us to ignore those around us and contact the same little group we're always talking to. Is it any wonder we're increasingly socially inept? We're creating a generation of people who don't know how to courteously, safely, pleasantly interact with strangers.

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  7. Very true. If you live in a community, in a democracy you have to be open for a compromise. Active listenining is rather a dying breed and I have the same impression like Maria Callozzo, many people don't talk with each other, they wait to manifest theirselfs, utterly deaf to maybe brilliant thought of others.

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    1. It's sad to watch this! But yes. It's inevitable when we live in a culture where people are being taught that just having an opinion is a hugely important thing. That sharing your opinion, regardless of how ill considered or uninformed, is vital! :-D When the emphasis is all on expressing how YOU feel, of course there is little energy for what others might feel or think.

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  8. Wise words. I'm trying to develop my listening skills.

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    1. People who can really listen have an edge. I think of being a good listener as a survival skill. ;-)

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  9. I now live in fear of someone ranting about your blog post asking us to all listen to each other and not rant. lol

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    1. No doubt! YOU'RE TRYING TO SHUT ME UP BY SUGGESTING I LISTEN TO OTHER PEOPLE! :-D

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