Philosophy Tuesday

There are a lot of important conversations to be held right now.*  And you, we, may find ourselves getting into a lot of them, which is great!  With this question to keep in mind:  Is this indeed a conversation, a discussion, or even an argument?  Or, instead, is it a debate?

For there is a distinction here.

A debate is a particular and specific thing.  It is something that occurs between a few people (often two), on a stage (or otherwise in front of an audience) with the intent of making a case that then persuades an audience.

And that there is the big thing about a debate:  it’s a performance.  It’s an act designed to play to and then convince those watching.  In many ways, it could even be said that debate is theater.

Which is fine!  _IF_ that’s what our intent is in engaging with someone about a topic.  And if we have an audience.  Because without that audience, a debate is pretty much futile and a waste of time.

A debate is all about the outside.  About that outward play.  There’s no engagement.  No communication happening between those involved.  It’s not about consideration or growth or challenging or imagination or learning or refining or exploring or deepening or anything of the sort.  It’s not contemplative at all.  At best, it’s only about how do you destroy the other person’s argument.  At worst (and maybe common), it’s about how do you destroy the other person. So out come all the rhetorical devices.  Out come fallacies by the truck load.  Out come traps and gotyas and buckets of dismissiveness.  Ad hominems are deployed en masse.

Debates are something that are waged.

And for those participating in the debate, there’s no change.  It’s a statis.  The very thing to do in a debate, the very premise, is to reject, immediately and categorically, everything but your own view.  Hunker down, put up sandbags, and deploy all weapons at anything and anyone that approaches.

Which is why getting into a debate with someone when there is no audience (and when the intent isn’t to play for the audience**) is such a worthless endeavour.  We can lance at each other all night and it will be all for naught.

To truly affect the other, to bring forward contemplation and possibilities, to open up empathy and humanity, to bring clarity and awareness, to move the needle forward in so many areas needs great conversation and discussion.  Even heated discussion!  But discussion grounded in exchange, with a willingness for examination and consideration and reflection and thinking.

And when things veer towards debate, all that goes out the window.  At that point, continuing – or even starting – is folly.  Either work to bring things back towards discussion, or step away.

The same applies whether in person, over the phone, online, social media, whatever.  If our authentic intent is to engage, then remaining watchful for thing sliding towards a debate (whether instigated by them or by ourselves) is important.

And if there’s no willingness to remain within the realm of contemplation, then we can save everyone’s time, energy, and passion by ignoring or walking away, and giving our time, energy, and passion to those who are willing and whom we can reach.

 

* And a lot of important listening

** This is important to remember on a social media platform.  We may think “haha, I’m debating this person for the masses!” but are we, really?  Is this really an effective debate venue?  Are those watching more apt to become part of the debate (and thus bunker down) rather than contemplate and engage?

Philosophy Tuesday

One thing I really enjoy is asking people what they are passionate about.

It’s not a common question, and sometimes it can take a little bit of prodding before they are able to answer.  At other times though, people will launch into exuberant sharing even without being asked, talking for minutes upon minutes before feeling apologetic for having, they fear, rambled on.

But no apology is necessary.  It is a delight to hear.

“Whole-hearted listening is the greatest spiritual gift you can give to the other person.”

“…if we would only listen with the same passion that we feel about wanting to be heard.”

— Harriet Lerner

There is a lot of talk “out there” about speaking strong and letting the world hear you and hear about you.  But there’s always the other side of the equation that isn’t mentioned or considered as often and yet we should and need to think about in at least in equal amounts.  Because for every speaker there has to be at least one listener.  More often it’s a whole group, which means that to really build passion we ought to spend more time listening than speaking.

It isn’t just a matter of speaking with passion – we need to listen with passion.

And it is that space that invites unexpected outpourings of enthusiasm and joy, no prodding needed.

It is a space we can create by listening for the gold and watching as vitality, possibility, and connectedness all blossom.

Philosophy Tuesday

Listening is a unique thing.

It is also very different thing than hearing.

Hearing is just hearing.  “I hear you” simply means you’ve noticed someone else trying to communicate to you.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re actually getting – or have gotten – the communication.

Listening is a deep art.  It is the ability to go beyond just the audio processing, and even more so to go beyond that little voice in your head that’s continually commenting on everything they’re saying.  Because listening more to the little voice commentary than to the actual speaker is definitively not actually listening.  Nor is that all too familiar grabbing on to that perfect little point you should say next as soon as they stop talking so there’s no point in what more they’re saying, you know what YOU want to say.

Listening goes beyond resisting.  Listening goes beyond judgement.

Listening is getting the communication, without adding or subtracting anything.

Truly deep listening gets all the communication including all the context that surrounds it.

Listening causes completion.  People who’ve been truly listened to don’t need to repeat themselves.

Listening creates dialogue.  People who’ve been truly listened to will often ask, “What do you think?”

Listening creates openings.  People who’ve been truly listened to find themselves grounded and ready to engage with “what’s next?”

When we are listened to, we feel connected.  Franticness wanes, exigency fades, and peacefulness arrives.

Once listened to, something new is possible.

Listening is a unique thing, an art that takes development and learning.

And it is an art most definitively worth attending to.

Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

It also comes this week in the form of a comic:

Anyone who says they are great at communicating

but “people are bad at listening”

is confused at how communication works

XKCD

I like this… besides being cute, I find it a wonderful little reminder of how blame and dumping can hinder what we’re out to do and what we want.  Of how easy it is to slough it off onto other people, make up a story of how come they’re the reason we’re ineffective, how bad they are, and in the process feel that delicious jolt of righteous juice.  All that to hide our disappointment in not being able to connect and reach and communicate.

Communication is so much at the core of who we are as human beings that when we are thwarted it can hurt and be uncomfortable in ways that almost defy not only description but also perception.  It’s so pervasive we don’t even notice it anymore, yet we are more than willing to dump our agency and fire off the blame cannon to salvage ourselves from that feeling. But we can take on being fully responsible (not blame!) for how a communication goes.  We may have to adapt, it may take longer, we may have to stretch ourselves in new ways – we may even have to learn (gasp!) to listen – but there’s never-ending possibility inside of taking responsibility.  If we truly want to communicate (and we do), if we truly want to align ourselves towards the future(s) we want (and we do here too), then we get to take it on.

And while that sounds super serious, nothing says we can’t have fun while we do it…