Real Dialog
by Dean Jacques

We all bemoan the lack of positive dialog in politics. Thanks to ideological extremists, and those exploitive politicians, strategists and talking heads who profit off them, what we take for communication can be likened to trench warfare. Each side hides in their respective ditch and take potshots at one another. The bullets and grenades usually miss. More precisely, the bullets and grenades never reach the other side. The conflict has degenerated to a war dance, with loud accustaions enflaming passions on both sides, assuring continued hostilities.

Each side speaks to its own pre-converted audience. If they bother to listen to the other side at all, it is to find weaknesses, fashion new complaints, twist the message out of context to mean the worst thing possible, providing fodder for insults and comedians. Positive dialog, constructive communication, cannot exist in the trench warfare of competing hardliners. There is no recognized common ground.

The result? Constant, unending political warfare. As happens during the moral collapse of any war, corruption and exploitation cheerfully go unnoticed. Despite the resulting pendulum swings of elections, no one really wins. Everyone loses. Even the profiteers have to live in a world condemned by political insanity of their own making.

It is said that democracy is, by nature, messy, but that is just a defeatist excuse. At some point the abuse of good intent becomes a farce, forcing a nation, along with its culture, to decline. The wealth may remain, and even grow. The military can still be powerful. But the soul of reason upon which the nation was built is steadily strangled.

When one side insults the other, when it attacks, attacks, attacks, it merely strengthens the other's resolve. It is a self-defeating strategy generated by anger and media-generated paranoia. These are misguided soldiers who make dialog impossible, scoring points in their own minds without realizing the damage they contribute.

If you agree with this assessment, consider taking a path that leads to solutions rather than the spiraling status quo. We need a new approach to public discourse to break this cycle. We also need to refresh our vision with a deeper understanding of our own ideals,

You don't feed positive, productive communication by disparaging or insulting someone's beliefs, even if the beliefs are wrong. You don't create a dialog without listening and trying to understand. You don't connect with someone by using taglines. While you explain your views, don't do it as a liberal or conservative. That comes with automatic barriers. Try talking one person to another, sensitive to the other person's insights and feelings.

Try turning people on rather than turning them off. Get out of the trench and find common ground. Use different, friendlier ways to expand perspectives. Rather than lecturing, build on your opponent's values to make a connection. Appeal to their deeper values. Don't sound like a know-it-all, or perpetually defend ideological positions. Restrain the memorized avalanching of accusatory, caustic information.

Remember, the beginning of a positive dialog is, as it always has been, respect. Sometimes you have to extend it first before it is reciprocated. It is amazing how people respond to respectful communication.

Of course, if you prefer trench warfare because you are used to it, or just need to satisfy your need to score, any number of venues will accommodate you, even reward you with "likes," affirming comments, and the occasional raw nerve from your opponents. Yes, it feels good to strike back now and then. But who are you striking? The other side is too busy spewing their own propaganda to really care about yours. Why not try to make real change in the civilized fashion that was originally intended?






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