WATWB – Try Talking, It’s Easier Than Fighting

Victor Hugo once said something interesting about enemies. Most people think it was Winston Churchill, but there’s no evidence he ever said “You have enemies? Great. It means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” There is, however, plenty of evidence that Victor Hugo said something similar:

“You have enemies? Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea. It is the cloud which thunders around everything that shines. Fame must have enemies, as light must have gnats. Do not bother yourself about it; disdain. Keep your mind serene as you keep your life clear.”

A little less punchy than the supposed Churchill quote, but also more eloquent. Such is Victor Hugo, I guess. On the other hand, Churchill stomped Nazis, so he gets a pass if he was less eloquent than a professional author.

On a somewhat less than related note, I got my first Twitter block last week. I don’t know if that counts as an enemy, but since I’ve only got one, I might need to step up my game.

Anyway, enemies are a part of life and everyone just needs to get cool with that because you can’t please all the people all the time. Even if you manage to find a way to agree with everyone to their faces, you’ll still have enemies; they’ll just smile warmly as they drive daggers into your back. At least with the angry enemies you know they’re coming.

But that doesn’t mean you have to be a dick to everyone you don’t agree with.

I think it would be an understatement to say there’s a crisis of communication in this country. While it would be easy to point fingers at the Tweeter in Chief, I think he’s just a symptom of a long-buried disease that’s been festering under the country’s skin. Not getting along with each other has long been an American tradition. Sure, it’s gotten more and more out of hand, but here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be that way.

Now, I’m not going to whine about getting along and not making waves. By all means, make waves. Make your voice heard. Speak your opinions. Just realize that not everyone is going to agree with them. And you know what? That’s okay. We don’t all need to share the same thoughts just like we don’t need to make everyone else think the same mad thoughts we have. It’s okay to disagree. It’s actually good to disagree.

In a small room in New York university, researchers are studying how people have difficult conversations on topics ranging from abortion to the Israel/Palestine conflict in the hope that their research will eventually teach people how to talk to each other without ripping throats or resorting to childish Tweets.

Eventually, the research should give us a better understanding of how to have a conversation with someone with strongly-held opposing beliefs. Because, like it or not, we’re all stuck on this rock and need to learn how to get along with each other.

Except Nazis. Fuck those guys.

Read the whole story here

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15 thoughts on “WATWB – Try Talking, It’s Easier Than Fighting

  1. You got blocked – cool! 😎 Guess that means you had something profound to say!
    When I think about the state of dialogue in our country I take heart knowing that the framers of the constitution had issues, too, by at least they had some work product to show for it.😩

    • I think the state of dialogue in our country usually comes down to “No, you’re a jerk. And you’re wrong.” It’s perfect for the politicians who are busy looting everything that’s not nailed down.

  2. Hi Eric – we do really need to set examples and leadership – and it comes from those of us down here talking to each other and being out there listening and learning … as your title says talking is better than fighting, easier too … thanks – great WATWB post – cheers Hilary

  3. This is an important topic, so thanks for bringing up. Great points in the article including the preparation, or acceptance of complexity – which goes against the black/white polarizing stance of mainstream media. Looking at what we can agree on might help, too.

    • It’s so easy to ignore the complexity of it all and focus on the bumper sticker arguments, but it’s the complexity that creates the nuances of thought. If we could get more people to focus on the nuance, maybe we could find more common ground.

  4. Terrific article, I agree with ericclahti about the state of dialogue in this country. I sure would like to learn how to talk more productively, I cringe when I have to listen to those who are interested only in supporting their position (someone in my household listens to Fox news every night), in name calling and accusations rather than having a real dialogue.

    • It’s like people have studied the top 15 logical fallacies and use them exclusively in debate. There are plenty of things I don’t agree with, but I try to understand people’s point of view when talking to them. Except Nazis & neo-Nazis. I’ve got zero tolerance for those guys.

  5. Finally getting to read this, and I’m glad I did. It was well worth the wait. Congrats on getting blocked. I haven’t yet experienced that, but I think it’s mostly because I read things, think, “What an idiot,” and move on because I just don’t feel like getting into a shouting match with a stranger. And it’s sad, because there are genuinely times I’d like to engage in reasonable discussion but one look at a comment thread tells me there’s no one willing to be reasonable.

    I’m not sure where people ever got the idea that everyone must agree with them, or that everyone needs to like them, or that there is a right opinion and a wrong one in every circumstance. I like your observation about discussion not having a winner and a loser, because it’s so right! Real discussion has . . . discussers. I’m not out there to change someone’s mind by discussion, necessarily, but I certainly thiink that we’re capable of making more rational decisions when presented with facts and the other person’s side of the equation. My husband loves to present the other side to me, even when I know he disagrees with it. He simply wants me to understand where someone’s coming from so I am reminded that we’re all human.

    • The Internet has been great for spreading information and introducing us all to different points-of-view and different ways of thinking. I think from that perspective, it’s been a great thing. Unfortunately, the inherent anonymity of the Internet and the absolutism our society seems to embrace have led us to some dark places. Penny Arcade presented the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory back in ’04 in response to the way people interacted on Unreal Tournament. The general gist was: Normal person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad. If you’ve ever seen gaming chats, it hits the mark perfectly. Unfortunately, that level of discourse has spilled over into regular discussions and managed to shut down all communication. Once that happened and it became an us vs them situation, that further segregated us. You can point fingers any which way and probably hit something that should shoulder some of the responsibility – religion, politics, sports, whatever – but the ultimate responsibility still falls us to tell the people that want to keep us segregated to stuff it.

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