Everyone knows how to talk. In 140 characters, one-page press releases, or 25-page white papers. On countless blogs, talk shows, and around water coolers. To friends, family, the teller at the bank (but apparently not the doctor).
Talking isn’t a problem. Discussion is. Americans seem to have forgotten the fine art of thoughtful discussion and meaningful debate. And that’s not just in Washington D.C. It’s true here in the heartland too.
I first started thinking about this when my daughter drew the short end of the issue stick in her sophomore debate class. She had to defend a woman’s right to have an abortion, an issue she personally does not support.
Talk about an emotionally charged issue. America has been debating “freedom of choice” for at least as long as I’ve been alive. So how did my daughter stand a chance to summarize a position she didn’t support in 8 minutes?
In having to “take sides” with something she personally opposes, my daughter learned the history of the issue and facts that don’t often make it into sound bites. She also read stories of women who struggled with a very personal decision, which helped her build some empathy. Even though the stories didn’t change her own position, she was able to fill her time at the podium with strong arguments and examples.
Imagine, knowing your own position AND having respect for another person’s right to have an opposing position at the tender age of 16. I couldn’t be prouder.
You might be asking why I would put such a polarizing issue like abortion on my blog:? Because the issue has two distinct sides and little room for a continuum of thought, let alone any room for meaningful discussion and understanding.
And that’s my point.
Debate can get heated and emotional. Strong listening and empathy skills can lead to thoughtful and respectful discussion – even when the discussion is at its most intense.
What if we all practiced a little more respect in our discussions? A little more research into the opposing view, if only to build a stronger case for our own POV? Here’s an example of where a little extra thoughtful research could have gone a long way.
Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience on March 9 that he will move to Costa Rica if health care reform becomes law. Later in the day, he recanted slightly, saying he will go to Costa Rica for his medical care.
Interestingly enough, Costa Rica has socialized health care, operated by the government.
Oops. He should have done a little more homework.