Can We Raise Our Level of Communicating?

The election rhetoric presents us an invitation and challenge to let our words reflect who we want to be.

by Susan Becker, RDC

The candidate’s story is pretty dismal.  He’s run in 11 elections for state and federal office and has won just two of them.  

By the time he was 21, he was involved in a failed business venture with a partner of questionable judgment. He began a second business, and, as the story goes, he went bankrupt doing it. His educational history is sketchy at best, and his mood swings are worrisome. 

It’s a good thing Abraham Lincoln is not a key player in the current race for his party’s nomination for president.  In this political climate he wouldn’t stand a chance.

Memories tend to be short, but this primary season seems to be notable in its uncivil discourse. In recent week’s personal religious practices and beliefs, theology, hair styles, choice of sweaters and choice of spouses have all been called into question and have found their way into the national debate on our collective future. 

These side trips do nothing to advance serious debate, but rather tend to hijack it.

At the same time, happily, there is something of a counter-current gaining more and more strength in our culture. Some call it nonviolent communication, others contemplative dialogue, compassionate communication, civil discourse. 

You might find it in a college orientation schedule as “How to Live in This World 101.”  Whatever we name it, the fundamental principles are restraint, compassion, self-awareness, openness, and the capacity to understand our own biases and the filters we use to give and receive information.  

Compassionate communication is the antithesis of name-calling; it is the capacity to shape and share a vision; to speak in ways that attend to the listener and to listen in ways that attend to the speaker. 

When we communicate nonviolently, our attending is about listening deeply to the message. Genuine attentiveness and formulating a counter argument cannot occupy the same space.

People who work to make the language of nonviolence their way of doing business in this world attempt always to speak the truth as they know it at that moment.  It may look different than it did at another time in their lives. It’s not about inconsistency; it’s about personal deepening.  And it’s about extending this possibility to the other.

All of us have a “shadow side,” the part of us that reacts rather than responds, that has unexamined anger and fear that come out sideways, that practices our own version of “stealth bombing,” and that has decided that winning is about everyone else losing, and winning is worth any price.  

We’ll never shed our shadow sides, but we aren’t predestined to live out of them. 

It’s about choice. Better yet, it’s about wisdom.

I can’t change the uncivil discourse of this season’s primaries or – I fear – of next season’s campaign. 

But maybe I, maybe we, can find the invitation the debates and speeches offer.  The invitation, the challenge, is look into our own hearts and decide who it is we want to be in the small part of the planet we inhabit and then choose, every day, and as many times a day as we need to, to be that person. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Greg Tart March 06, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Yes, but even Lincoln had to leave town when he lampooned a rival with humorous slander when he was a legislator.
Dan Seidel March 06, 2012 at 09:07 PM
I have a "go bag". AND a BIG Thank you for putting me in Lincoln's company. Tim? See? this for Dina: Abe drew fire.
Terry Young March 07, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Susan, Great commentary and insights on how "to do business" on the front lines or in the home. I liked the way you put it ; "Compassionate communication is the antithesis of name-calling; it is the capacity to shape and share a vision; to speak in ways that attend to the listener and to listen in ways that attend to the speaker." Terry
susan Becker March 07, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Hi, Dan, I've enjoyed the repartee. Regarding your comments that " Insults can be the right flavor of the day! Helped us become America - muse on that." I'm wondering how much more highly evolved we might have become if we had taken the high road...
Dan Seidel March 07, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Hi Susan, thanks for enjoying - wordplay is fun. Invigorating! I believe the Founders did take the high road and we owe our evolution into a stupendous, marvelous, outstanding democratic republic to that furious passionate fight occurring over 225 years ago. Their fantastic, brilliant and oft times vicious wordplay and analyses gave us a remarkable document and country we should cherish and uphold as a beacon to the world: the Amendments (all 27) and the way the three branches of gov't are supposed to interlock and work, all to slow reasoned decisions for major policy issues, would not be the same if we were all "p.c." all the time. REAL feelings and passions would be stifled - magnificance would never shine. I prefer insults and shouts and beating issues to death. Then we can all go out to a pub for some beers and laugh about it, but marvel at what we produced. THAT's professionalism and socializing at its best - the high road. I believe we ARE highly evolved - just too many Jersey Shore injections into life. Hamilton took it a bit too far - pistols at dawn ain't worth it - lawsuits are preferred. I'll take the Court's judgment. Civilized.


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