Having the difficult conversations
Can we act as gentlemen while discussing volatile subjects like religion and politics?
I recently attended a Podcast & Blog Industry meetup, about three and a half hours away from my hometown. My friend and colleague Bryan Orr, from Podcast Movement Sessions
, offered to drive us there. During our drive, we engaged in deep conversations dealing with subjects as sensitive as politics, religion, and racism. Needless to say, we didn't agree on all aspects of these topics, but nevertheless, we engaged in those discussions in a civil and courteous manner. Never did we ever allow our passionate views to overpower the conversation. Never did we insult one another when confronting differences of opinion. Instead, we acknowledged that we had different ways of looking at things and shared the reasons that led each other to those core beliefs.
The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress. -Joseph Joubert
By contrast, I have noticed that when people express their views on social network sites like Facebook, there is a tendency for people to give way to their passions and allow them to sabotage the conversation. I manage a Facebook group with nearly 6,000 members who have identified themselves as gentlemen who value virtues and manners. Even within that group, we have had some men resort to rhetorical acrobatics to prove their point in the most aggressive and disrespectful ways.
In a previous article titled "The Courage to be Courteous
", I suggest that one doesn't have to sacrifice courtesy upon the altar of courage. My father had the wisdom to teach me the importance of remaining a gentleman, even when the topic at hand was one that required some courage to be discussed. He showed me through his example, that a gentleman doesn't have to shy away from a difficult conversation, but instead should face it with courage, dignity and respect.
Considering that we are so rapidly approaching a presidential election and considering the media spectacle that has risen from the presidential debates, it is more important than ever that we keep our passions under control and choose to have these difficult discussions in a dignified manner. Steven R. Covey said it well when he said: "first seek to understand, then to be understood". Remember that although there may be differences of opinions between you and your friends, often times you can find truths in their words, which you may have previously ignored. Remind yourself not to dismiss everything that the other person says, just because some of the things they have said are incompatible with your beliefs. Give yourself the opportunity to grow with every conversation you have with others.
"Everyone you will ever meet, knows something you don't" -Bill Nye
I hope that you join me in keeping these lessons fresh in our minds. I hope that you can help others open their minds to alternate possibilities by seeking to understand before seeking to be understood. I wish you many car rides and deep conversations with friends, like the ones I had with Bryan that day. Because when we give ourselves the opportunity to listen, learn and grow with every conversation we have, we give ourselves the gift of becoming a better version of ourselves.