Friday, March 28, 2014


In this landscape of space we live in, it never ceases to amaze me how angry some people get, especially when having a conversation about a polarizing topic, such as politics. Personally, I have taken to refusing any conversation that involves a polarizing subject matter. This frees me to concentrate on heady issues that are not laden with anger and vitriol, but instead I can be positive through and through. The results are remarkable for my very being as I have noticed a sincere change in my temperament.

Beyond getting angry in conversations, humans tend to get angry in a lot of high friction situations, including driving, shopping in crowded locations, attending crowded events and attending sporting events. In each case listed, there is a task involved that induces a type of situational stress. Some handle that stress well and others not so well. Typically speaking, it comes down to a position or more specifically; an opinion. Opinions are seemingly all too often tied to emotions and while this might seem natural, having an opinion about something should not lead one’s blood pressure to rise rapidly, as is often the case.

For instance, if someone asked you your opinion on coffee and which brand you like and why, you might offer some sound advice based on your experiences and knowledge of coffee. An opinion like that is typically devoid of any emotion with the exception of possibly the emotion of pleasure (or displeasure) as you describe your favorite (or least favorite) coffee. At best, the emotion is simply not there. At worst, you may exhibit an over-reaching opinion that went beyond what you were being asked about as you got excited about something you really like or dislike. Ultimately, any conversation like that can be had without much trouble. There are a bevy of topics that one can discuss in a similar manner and we would do well to take mental notes as to how we interact with such conversations.

Unfortunately, there are also a few topics that when they come up, cause heart rates to rise immediately. There is absolutely nothing healthy about such conversations and yet we find ourselves drawn into them from time to time, sometimes without want. The trick is learning to pull away from them as gracefully as possible, because in the end, no one is going to remember you for how eloquently you argued for or against the color of dominoes (or whatever useless topic you get sucked into). Life is simply too short to get entwined in angry chats about things that people vehemently hate but have absolutely no understanding of how to truly fix. This is not to say there are no good ideas out there about how to solve a lot of what is wrong with our current society, but it more comes down to proper implementation and follow through, something the average citizen has no clue about. This is not to suggest that we as a populace should not be educated about our world, but instead we need to come at arguments armed with solutions, not just stones to throw.

This comes down to intent. I’ve written about it before for other reasons but this is a little different. Intentionality is more than just why, or why not; being intentional reveals not only who you are but also what you think about others. When we drag someone else into a conversation involving a toxic subject, we make certain assumptions and jump to conclusions. The first assumption is they want to be involved in this discussion.  The second is we overvalue our own opinions. We conclude it’s because we enjoy a good argument. And lastly, we seek to validate our position, usually from the perspective of being heard that we are right. For some of us, we might read that and think; what’s wrong with any of that? Your intentions are what speak the loudest and they give away the position of your heart. Conversations are either constructive or destructive in nature and our words will decide which direction we take.

Simply put, you can decide the direction of any given conversation based on what guides you. If your ego is central, your conversations will be guided by what you want and you will find yourself in discussion after discussion involving hollow content (that which does not build up). If instead you value others as much as you value yourself, you may find yourself listening more and responding less. You will avoid baseless chats unless they provide a spring board to a more valuable conversation. And valuable conversations are what we want!

The signs of a healthy discussion should be obvious by now, but just in case there are questions, let’s list them out. The words you use should be for building up and not tearing down; of anyone or anything. Opinions are OK but not if they are used as weapons or ultimatums. Your opinion matters, just try and remember that other people have an opinion too and it might differ drastically from yours; this does not make them ignorant. Everyone deserves to be heard because when we invite as many diverging ideas and opinions to the discussion, we learn not only what other thoughts exist on a given topic, but we become more aware of how and why people think the way they do.

All of this is not to suggest that we cannot have a heated debate because in reality, healthy arguments do exist but they tend to be rare. The reasons for this are quite simple and will always boil down to two things; intent, which we have already discussed and respect, which has been alluded to. It is quite possible to have an ardent debate with one or more people without it leading to a fight. In order for that to be possible, we must learn to respect each other first.

If we can reach the point of respecting each other we can erase most of the anger from conversations and begin to truly arrive at solutions to our woes instead of creating more troubles because of our fighting. It’s a noble thought indeed, but I suppose, it’s only an opinion.

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