Sunday, May 24, 2009

An Old Expression

When people seem pigheaded about one thing or another, my husband often shrugs and repeats something he heard in his childhood: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” (I know it’s not correct in terms of today’s gender sensitivity, but it is an old expression.)

This bit of folk wisdom is something we should take to heart and share with our elected officials on Capitol Hill. People are turned off by tactics designed to force agreement or compliance—shouting (or SHOUTING), name-calling, sarcasm, manipulation, and contempt will never convince anyone of anything. And as we all know, there’s plenty of all of that in the public discourse in America today.

Another thing that never works—in families or in legislatures—is win-lose arguments or situations. In the long-term, there’s no such thing as “win-lose.” There’s only “lose-lose” (e.g., “You got your way this time, but I’ll get you next time!”) or “win-win” (e.g., “We’ll compromise and both get some of what we want.”).

Unfortunately, it’s easier to shout down the opposition than to formulate careful arguments. And it generally takes less energy to beat someone down than to compromise. Taking the high road is always more work. But if even a few of us can master the art of treating one another with respect—even when we vehemently disagree—perhaps the habit will spread. (Would it be too much to hope that it might spread all the way to the nation’s capital?)

While I’m on the subject of respectful disagreement, I’d like to thank all of you who’ve recently commented on these posts. As our discussions continue, I feel that we’re getting better and better at recognizing one another’s good intentions and sincere efforts to understand. I hope you agree.

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