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Stop Assumption

The other day a friend shared an image on Facebook – you know, one of those memes that eventually makes its way into everyone’s newsfeed – about a current contentious issue, which, predictably, set off a firestorm of comments among the people on her friends list.

I’ll admit it: I lurked.

Yes, I lurked. And wow, it really wasn’t pretty. The very first person to respond to the original post started off hostile and defensive (and, incidentally, somewhat off-topic), and things rapidly devolved from there, with people representing both “sides” of the hot-button issue raised by the first commenter rapidly chiming in with their own feelings and opinions.

As I observed the flow of posts, I noted that the main players on both sides didn’t actually seem to be listening to what the others had to say, but instead responded to each comment with their own well-rehearsed catchphrases and rhetoric designed to put their opponent in their place.

Witnessing a scenario like the one on my friend’s Facebook page makes me think, ruefully, that if a handful of individuals can’t even have a reasonable exchange of ideas on an internet forum, the thought of ever achieving world peace is laughable at best.

It’s completely fair and understandable that we will all approach issues from different angles, and, based on our varying belief systems and worldview, come to different places at which to stand. And after all, a cookie-cutter world where we all thought the same and acted the same and lived the same would be colourless, dull, and devoid of value.

But I wonder how much of what we have to say about our beliefs, about our feelings on issues, is completely lost because of the method in which we choose to share it.

stopassumption

I wonder what would happen if, when we found ourselves involved in such a discussion, we for just one minute consented to suspend our beliefs, let go of our assumptions about what we think the other person is saying, and really listen with an open heart, a willing mind, a softness of spirit.

I don’t necessarily think that doing so would totally change minds on either side. Nor do I think having a population made up of robots would be at all interesting (see above).

But imagine a world where instead of preconceived notions, namecalling, misperceptions, and hostility, we ended up actually understanding each other just a little better and thereby living in peace. Imagine if instead of judging others, we tried to learn from them. Imagine if instead of fighting, we accepted that sometimes there will be differences, and that’s ok.

Imagine. Do you think you can do it?
Please share!

(Originally posted in February, 2012.)

NaBloPoMo January 2014

Ultimate Blog Challenge

Laurel Regan – Writer, tangler, iPhoneographer, cat herder, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, needle felter, Growlita, iFan, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.

{ 38 comments… add one }

  • Lauri Rottmayer January 20, 2014

    What you suggest is pretty much what I do on social media. I have friends on all sides of every issue. However, social media (especially twitter) is my happy place and I don’t want to muck it up. I do a lot of type type type delete but ultimately, while I read everything, I don’t respond. You’re right. Listening to opposing viewpoints doesn’t change my own. What it does do is constantly amaze me that two people can look at the same thing and see it so differently. Still, I wouldn’t want a world where everyone believe the same way. Terribly boring! :-)
    Lauri Rottmayer recently posted… #napnapbabyMy Profile

  • Adela
    Twitter:
    January 20, 2014

    Learning to listen is something I work on daily. (Whoops, just got distracted by your MyKiva. I must get on my account and re-loan. How’d you get the badge?) Okay, back to listening. Many times I disagree with an opinion, and may even argue vehemently. Later, sometimes years later, something about the conversation rings true. I end up changing my position; my heart is opened. The “talker” might never know the impact she had on me.
    Yes, listening is a good thing. Even when we disagree. Even when we disagree A LOT.
    Adela recently posted… The Remains of MeMy Profile

  • Kristin S January 20, 2014

    Uhoh, guilty! I usually stay away from hot topic debates on FB, but I got sucked into one yesterday! It stayed very civil though and respectful I think. When it happens on my page, I usually end up deleting it because 2 of my friends usually turn it into personal attacks. Thanks for the reminder!
    Kristin S recently posted… Guest Post- DIY Valentine’s Day FrameMy Profile

  • Pam January 20, 2014

    YES, yes, yes…most messages are lost by how they are delivered. I teach teens speech in the summer and this one of my main points. Good post!
    Pam recently posted… OOTD Inspiration: Winter BrightsMy Profile

  • Callie Carling
    Twitter:
    January 20, 2014

    Thought-provoking, Lauren : ‘tho I don’t sit on the fence (it’s quite uncomfortable!) I do always think twice and then once more for luck before adding any comment. I love honest, direct and transparent engagement but sometimes my eyebrows fly off my face with surprise, because people just come at things from such varying angles (and sadly, sometimes, with hostility and rudeness). Respecting each other’s differences – and right to those differences – is what makes the world go round :)
    Callie Carling recently posted… Feeling blue today? #BlueMondayMy Profile

  • Seeker January 20, 2014

    Such food for thought!! You’re so right.
    Yes, I wish we could live in that wonder world you talk about in the end.

    xoxo

  • Walker Thornton
    Twitter:
    January 20, 2014

    It seems to me that part of the issue is listening skills. Though many people are so wrapped up in themselves that they’ve forgotten the benefits of listening and engaging in conversation. Add to that the sense of anonymity afforded by the internet and it leads to even worse behavior. Great article, thank you!
    Walker Thornton recently posted… Being Intentional in Daily Life- The Challenges of a “Me, Me” CultureMy Profile

  • Life Breath Present January 20, 2014

    I so very much agree with your ideas! I, personally, do my best to always choose my words carefully and wisely when discussing hot topic issues. I refuse to engage in conversations that steer off-topic, resort to name-calling/badgering/bullying/etc, and tend to state my point as clearly as possible without being overbearing. Often, I may leave a comment once or twice but that’s it. I also make a point to ensure I’ve read and re-read comments from others And point out that I hear them and that we may not agree. I most especially refuse to try to push someone into believing what I believe/feel/etc about anything, because quite frankly I’m not in their shoes and they aren’t in mine. No matter how much I know someone, our lives and experiences will never be the same, so our reasoning for things is only ours.
    Life Breath Present recently posted… To Work or Not?My Profile

  • Eydie Stumpf
    Twitter:
    January 20, 2014

    More often than not – I don’t get involved in those heated FB conversations. You’re right, no one wants to listen to the other person’s opinion. Their minds are closed. And I have to wonder if those same obnoxious people would use the same words and tone were they to be face-to-face with the group of people they were ranting to on FB.

    Listening is so key. Recently I went to my local coffee shop to do some writing. I shared the table with a gal (whom I had not known before) who happened to be a nutritionist. We got on the conversation of weight. I’m over-weight, and told her I was seeing a holistic health coach. This gal went on an on about eating the right foods. Duh!!!! I’m 62 years old and never knew that… LOL I told her that’s it’s not really the food, or the exercise – it’s the “why”. Why aren’t I eating the right foods? Why aren’t I exercising? Why am I allowing my weight to take over my life? The nutritionist kept going back to, “If you don’t lose weight you’ll end up diabetic or on dialysis”. Again…. Duh! Like I didn’t know. She just wasn’t LISTENING to me – It’s not the food – it’s the WHY!

    We talked for close to 2-hours. She finally got it. She finally understood what I was saying. She finally LISTENED to me. Things are rarely black and white. Rarely one way or the other, or right or wrong. There’s always middle ground on which we call all agree. So, I hope the next time she tells one of her patients to eat right – she’s also holding their hand and saying, “I HEAR you….how can I support you”?

    Eydie :)
    Eydie Stumpf recently posted… Are You Courageous Enough to Take Action?My Profile

  • Carol Cassara
    Twitter:
    January 20, 2014

    In today’s fragmented news world, we don’t have to listen to anyone who doesn’t agree with us. No need to let any new info in, just stay entrenched in our own points of view. Listening skills HAVE disappeared.
    Carol Cassara recently posted… Native American stereotypes in ceramic boomboxes?My Profile

  • Magical Mystical Mimi
    Twitter:
    January 20, 2014

    I try not to engage in hot topics on Facebook because typically it doesn’t end well. It would be nice if everyone approached these topics with an open mind but it has never been my experience. One or two people, maybe but the calm mind often gets trampled on by the angry minds/voices. Every now and again I may toss in my two cents but usually it’s just to play “Devil’s Advocate” and then I’m silent and I watch. Again, those hot topics seldom end well..
    Stopping by from Bloppy Bloggers.

  • Lynda Lippin
    Twitter:
    January 20, 2014

    I have some friends who are at the opposite of the political spectrum from me, and I just don’t get involved in any of those altercations. It is fun to lurk, however.

  • Karen Lynn January 21, 2014

    I so often type out a comment then backspace over it because you know, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. But I am super guilty of being passionate about something I care about, to the point of being obnoxious sometimes (so says my mom). I’d never call anyone an idiot or any name on social media, I respect opinions, even if I disagree. And I’ll let you know I disagree, respectfully. Then I’ll walk away. (thinking specifically about a post yesterday that I had to sit on my hands for…)
    Karen Lynn recently posted… Pursuing Better HealthMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      January 21, 2014

      It can be a real discipline to keep quiet when you REALLY want to speak out about something! The phrase I always come back to is “choose your battles” when I’m trying to decide whether or not it’s worth it for me to get involved. Most often the answer is no.
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Today’s Gratitude List – Linkup No. 13My Profile

  • Valerie Rind
    Twitter:
    January 21, 2014

    Gee, my FB friends must be boring … no major rants! :)

    Sometimes I listen (briefly) to radio or TV commentators who have views that are radically different from mine. I figure I won’t learn anything if I listen to the people I already agree with.
    Valerie Rind recently posted… How to Loan Money to a FriendMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      January 21, 2014

      LOL… well, there aren’t too many on my FB friends list… very often it’s THEIR friends who start things in the comments on an otherwise innocuous post!

      I do that too, sometimes, with an emphasis on “briefly” – I can’t stomach them for TOO long!
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Today’s Gratitude List – Linkup No. 13My Profile

  • Doreen McGettigan
    Twitter:
    January 21, 2014

    I used to allow myself to get lured into debates that quickly turned into arguments that made no sense.
    I got myself caught up in one on Twitter yesterday. I remained respectful the other party did not.
    What happened to honest, respectful debates?
    It seems some people are too frightened of brainwashing to listen to differing opinions.
    If we concentrated more on our similarities and branched out from there I believe more compromising would happen.
    Doreen McGettigan recently posted… I expected rainbows…My Profile

  • Gwen January 21, 2014

    Beautifully put. I certainly do not want to live in a world of automatons. One time a friend posted about immigrants and refugees and how Canada treats them better than those of us who are already Canadian. I felt I needed to let her know the difference between immigrants and refugees and the process they go through to live in Canada. After all, my dad is an immigrant. In return I was defriended (for a while) and while we still had mutual friends I saw I was also called some nasty names. Oh well, at least one of them wasn’t “red neck”. :)

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      January 21, 2014

      Ugh, I’ve heard that argument and it drives me crazy. Glad you spoke up, even though it caused some strife. I definitely don’t advocate avoiding hot-button issues when you need to confront them – it’s all about the delivery! And listening.
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Poll: Hindsight or Foresight?My Profile

  • Lissa Johnston January 21, 2014

    Lurking is getting a bad rap here (and for good reason – even the word sounds creepy!). But I have cut my FB time way, way back and honestly, now it consists of what you might call lurking. I don’t interact or post all that much anymore, just use it as a news feed to see what everyone is up to. When these crazy interactions break out, I think of it like an electronic version of going to the zoo – ‘Look at all the primitive behaviors!’ Amusing, but once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

  • peppylady (Dora) January 21, 2014

    Not sure what the different between..judging, assuming, or guessing. I try to limited my time on computer…I make plan and try to stick with it…tomorrow I’ll post and do some genealogy….But one life can’t be consume with a computer.
    peppylady (Dora) recently posted… Don’t Mind Giving My Fellow Being a Helping Hand.My Profile

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