Losing the Art of Conversation (or, Long Live the Flame Wars!!)

It’s been another one of those writing days when I had a beautifully crafted post all ready for uploading, and yet I stopped.

The post was based off comments received from another blogging friend’s post; a rather lively give-and-take session between, at times, four different commentators.  But as I continued to read through the ever-growing thread (last count: 153+ comments), one thing became painfully obvious.

No one was listening.

Everyone seemed so laser-focused on making their own point that no one bothered to recognize the other commentator may have had a point as well.

I soon realized that within my own post, beautifully crafted though it may be, I was doing the same thing.  I was going to perpetuate the overriding issue on my own humble little blog.  Oh sure, it would have been a lively debate.  But to what end?  After a while, if all you end up doing is reiterating your point….again….and, again….and, again.

There comes a time when you have to ask . . . What IS your point?  Do you want to be heard?  Or, do you want to be right?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that anyone necessarily had to agree; simply that they took the time to digest the information, and understood.  Agreeing is not the same as being heard.  Agreeing is also not the same as understanding.   I may not agree with you, but I can at least acknowledge that I “get it”.

And sometimes, that’s enough.

Try typing in the words, “I don’t agree, but I get where you’re coming from.”

It’s not easy is it?  I think we, as a general human condition, feel that acknowledging someone else’s point is akin to agreement; or worse, the two most dreaded words to those with strong opinions on whatever topic is being bandied about . . .

Acceptance.  or, Tolerance!


Umm, It’s not!

Let me repeat that for those few who may have read the “T”-word, shut their eyes, covered their ears and went, “lalalalalalalalalalalalalalala”.  It’s not!

Sometimes, whether it be through blog posts, follow-up comments, or Facebook status updates, we get so wrapped up in making our stance on an issue known that we forget there’s an actual person on the other side of the keyboard; most often wrapped up in making his or her own stance the central focus.  At this point it doesn’t matter how many times you repeat it, that you resort to sarcasm because they have the density of an Acme brick, or that you YELL IT OUT IN ALL CAPS!!  The conversation has, for all intents and purposes, stopped.  It’s now no more than a flame war; with mortars of big words and lofty ideologies fired back and forth with little regard for collateral damage or casualties.

I’m right and you’re an idiot, dammit!  WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THAT!!

Could it be that we’ve become so enrapt in our own little blogospheres, emboldened by the power of Facebook commentary, empowered by the anonymity of unsigned emails, that we’ve lost the finer art of conversation?

How many of these flame wars could be avoided if the two (or four) combatants were sitting face-to-face across from each other over a cup of coffee or gourmet burgers?  For the sake of the next round of bottomless fries do you think you might concede the point?

There’s a certain nuance that comes from the facial expressions that accompany spoken dialog; a disarming tilt of the head, a knowing smile, a sarcastic twinkle to the eye, the furrowed brow of deep consideration, not to mention the hand gestures that add emphasis and drive home a point.

And I’m sorry, but this  🙂  doesn’t cut it.

As Chris Jordan from Beausejour Pulpit so aptly puts it:

“Now don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here: I enjoy Facebook just as much as the next person, but we can’t allow our online friendships to become a substitute for real world interactions.”

Maybe it’s just the speed at which our brains work.  When we read an online status, a blog post, or a new comment we don’t agree with, we’ve got all the time in the world to think of a pithy comeback.  But, when we’re sitting across from the person, in the heat of the moment, quite often that pointed jab of witty banter just doesn’t come right away.  And maybe, just maybe, that’s a good thing (or should I emphasize, a GOOD thing).  Maybe that’s the time to simply stuff your face with another steak fry, cock your head to one side and say, “Yeah okay.  Whatever!”

Post Script: On the same day I caught the idea to write this post, I ran across two separate articles written along the same lines.  They probably drive the point home much better than I could and are provided below:

Inside the Writer: The Spoken Word   http://insidethewriter.com/2013/05/29/the-spoken-word/

The Beausejour Pulpit: Facebook or Face-to-Face http://thebeausejourpulpit.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/proverbs-12-facebook-or-face-to-face/

3 thoughts on “Losing the Art of Conversation (or, Long Live the Flame Wars!!)”

  1. You’ve tackled quite a topic! Listening, perhaps the most important part of conversation, is indeed lacking in many of our verbal and virtual interactions. Thanks for the reminder to listen well.

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