Letter: Meaningful dialogue
Some time ago I heard about a baseball pitcher who put his foot on the pitching rubber, then just stood there holding the ball. Getting tired of waiting, the catcher called time out, walked to the pitcher’s mound and asked, “Why aren’t you throwing the ball?” The pitcher responded, “If I don’t throw it, they can’t hit it.”
In many ways, we’re doing the same thing with important conversation topics. We seem to have an unspoken agreement that we won’t discuss a number of significant subjects such as climate change, political polarization, prevention of gun violence, etc.
You can probably add several other subjects to this list, all with the rationale that “discussions about such topics always lead to arguments.” That’s very similar to saying “if we don’t discuss them, we won’t argue about them.”
A significant part of avoiding these needed conversations lies in the fact that we don’t know how to engage in meaningful dialogue. Much of what we do is really just a sequential series of monologues.
When we should be listening, we’re busy thinking about the next set of words that we are going to use in our effort to “win.” Our conversation partners do the same thing when they should be listening.
Also, we very rarely take time to examine our assumptions, and we often fail to do any serious homework. Then we fail to focus on real issues rather than on the person(s) advocating them. Finally, even on those rare occasions when we manage to achieve meaningful discourse, we frequently stop short of agreeing on and undertaking viable actions.
If we’re going to continue this approach, we should at least take time to write a letter of apology to our grandchildren and other members of future generations. They are the ones who will be stuck with consequences of our failure to engage in meaningful dialogue.
They are the ones who will ask, “Why didn’t you learn how to talk with each other? Why did you just stand there and do nothing?”
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
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