To those of you who feel elated because you have six hundred Face Book friends and are prone to get a rush when tweeting to your favorite two hundred followers, maybe the idea of a real conversation might seem confusing. Same for anyone who recently started a conversation by announcing that politics and religion were off limits as points of discussion fearing the hassle it might create between all of the parties gathered. The subject of this blog might just be lost to you.
Conversation, defined by Webster, is: an informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; i.e. talk! The key definition here: by spoken word! To tweet is not to have a conversation. Posting to a blog is not conversation either. More like taking a big sticky note and pasting it on someone’s computer screen. Both are modern day attempts at throwing a few words out there and hoping that someone reads them and is interested in what they read. Neither is a real conversation, but in today’s world beginning to be accepted as one. In a world where advertisers, politicians, government and hawking corporations surround our ever waking moment the idea of back and forth real chitchat time apparently has been lost on us all. And for those who have actually tried to have a conversation with a real person while trying to get support services, the idea of a conversation has become almost a joke!
This past election season many of us may have thought we were having conversations about politics, but alas, in hindsight found we were only regurgitating what we heard someone else say on a newscast or in an advertisement. The opinions of the bubblehead commentators had been sculpted by focus groups and advertisers to appeal to our gut feelings. They use us as repeaters, not commentators, thus helping to spread their propaganda sans any input from our own thinking!
A steady diet of that kind of information leads to two emotional responses. Either paranoia or disdain for all we see in the world around us. Given the way we have become polarized regarding our politics, religion, nature, global climate change views and general feeling regarding government, it’s no wonder we scowl at the television when Congress goes home on vacation and leaves the rest of us perilously dangling over fiscal cliffs!
A recent promo for a talk television show had Bill O’Riley and Ted Koppel bantering back and forth about today’s political conversations. O’Riley asked Koppel if he was upset about his conservative point of view and Koppel replied, “not necessarily, but he hated it when ORiley was rude to the people he had on his show that disagreed with him”! Bottom line, if you are rude, who wants to talk to you?
The minute your point is the only point, conversation stops and lecturing begins. So how do we get a conversation going regarding politics or any other hot topic of the day? First of all, common courtesy need not go out the window when you meet someone who does not agree with you.
For sure we all have triggers. I say I like the President, you see a red flag and charge. You say you want to be fiscally conservative and I suddenly see the safety net for the poor and Medicare being cut to the bone. Knee jerk reactions that do or don’t make sense, but yet they are there. Triggers are an integral part of what is called having an opinion. Those triggers are part of us. What in the past was part of our fight or flight mechanisms today are being co-opted into our response to things we don’t agree with. We get a rush of that adrenaline when the faux news commentator opens their mouth or the liberal stands up for a union we don’t support. All part of the way we are hard wired!
Margaret Wheatley in, “So Far From Home: Lost and Found in our Brave New World,” recognizes this as part of why we don’t talk anymore. We are so ready for a fight we seldom have time to hear what the other is trying to say. Yet unless we start listening not only to our bodies but to what others are saying, conversation is soon to become just a series of tweets and postings, and that will leave us with a world none of us is going to like, any better than the one we live in now!