One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. - Bryant H. McGill
I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening. - Larry King
The Twitterverse is alive with rhetoric in Alberta in the last few days as Bill 10, the Gay-Straight Alliance Bill, was put on hold by the Alberta Government and once again, misinformed and malformed brains demonstrate how one goes about putting the Twit in Twitter.
And while some people lament about how their rights are being crushed while others complain that some people have too many rights already, a darker issue quietly (or not so quietly) rides the undercurrent of the debate.
The darker issue is found in the lack of respectful dialog - the ability to discuss and debate one’s point without driving it down someone else’s throat, the ability to not condemn someone for daring to disagree (or not agree, which is subtly different) and the ability to avoid the temptation of using a difficult issue as a tool to conveniently promote one’s own agenda as some politicians are doing right now.
If you are pro-LGBTQ, recognize that if someone doesn’t support your cause, that does NOT automatically mean they are against you as some claim. If a legislator doesn’t want to enact a bill immediately because of the complexities contained therein, know that thousands of children aren’t condemned to be beaten in the dark recesses of the playground as you imply. You should also use data appropriately without exaggeration or wilful distortion as I requested in Bullying and the REAL Crisis In Alberta (and elsewhere) and The Problem With the LGBTQ Agenda.
If you are anti-LGBTQ, recognize the needs and sensitivities of others, recognize that their past may have been difficult because of their orientation and recognize that if someone feels threatened in any way, they will promote their needs with vigour and passion. Also recognize that if there is an imbalance in the rights of others, then such imbalances must be corrected without question, complaint or hesitation.
And for both sides, remember that there are other serious things happening in the world that must not be forgotten lest a small victory be won but the war be lost in terms of larger issues that affect all of us. Beware also the politician who often couldn’t care less about the people but who seek to leverage contentious issues for their own gain.
Judge not lest ye be judged … well … except in the case of some politicians.
The inability of people to be able to dialog respectfully, the unwillingness to be able to listen (not just hear) before speaking and the inability to be able to reflect on what the other person is saying while not merely waiting for them to stop talking so that a counter-argument can be offered immediately are all turning every important dialog into another opportunity to walk all over others who disagree with them.
What kind of example are we setting for our youth – that (s)he who shouts loudest or threatens the sharpest carries the day?
And so when it comes to demanding respect as one promotes an idea, such respect starts with earning it and giving it no matter what side of a debate someone finds themselves on. If one leans towards the tactics of bullying in order to accomplish one’s agenda, then one deserves much less respect than is being requested.
In fact, in such situations, the person demanding respect by intimidation deserves none.
The Bottom Line
A time is coming when the ability to passionately but respectfully debate and solve serious issues will be a critical skill to have. If during this time, we haven’t acquired the skill, the ability or the will to discuss difficult issues with data, respect and understanding, then it won’t matter what we are arguing about and we will all go down together.
In the meantime, I think we need to take the time to practice a more civil form of dialog (sprinkled with passion) in order to make the world a better place.
Maybe the LGBTQ debate provides such an opportunity.
What do you think?
In service and servanthood,
PS In negotiation and debate, don’t assume that everything you demand will be given to you nor should you assume that you can get away with giving away too little. By the same token, do not demand too little nor give away too much. Somewhere in all of that, there is a balance that works for all. Only through fair and respectful debate, with knowledge, wisdom and data to back it up, can the balance be found.
Addendum – An Example - December 17, 2014
John Carpay, a Calgary lawyer, had this to say in a National Post op-ed last week - Parents — even Alberta ‘hillbillies’ — have a right to make choices about their children’s education.
The article triggered this comment by Kristopher Wells to which I responded (click on image for larger version):
Which then produced this response from a bystander:
Which led to this conversation (click on image for larger version):
And this (click on image for larger version):
Too bad … another opportunity for two sides to understand each other comes to a crashing halt.
I personally prefer to seek allies over antagonists and if an alliance is not possible, I would rather leave someone neutral rather than antagonize them.
Unfortunately, not everyone shares such a belief nor the belief in respectful dialog.