Guest Post from Kathy Weyer
Conflict and Civility
I sound like an old lady. Maybe I am.
Let me begin by saying there is nothing wrong with kindness, just please do not confuse kindness with weakness, nor bullying with strength. Just because I don’t raise my voice and call you an idiot does not mean I am weak, and if I were to make an issue of something it does not mean I am a bully.
I am neither.
What I am, and I can only speak for myself, is someone who values courtesy and respect before opinion. That sometimes looks like an inability to stand up for myself. I get it. (My perspective is that our last president had this same problem. He allowed people to keep their dignity, but respected opinions different from his. He was perceived as weak. Maybe I am, too.)
Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
So it’s important to me to find a way to speak up, be heard, and still honor my own path of respect and dignity. This means setting my own boundaries, something I think we have lost as a society. We cannot dictate good taste or manners, but we can set an example.
I was taught years ago when I first started my professional life that every sentence uttered needs to count for something, that there is a specific goal you are after in the conversation or idea. If not, keep your mouth shut. Grandstanding and attention getting doesn’t cut it – especially for women.
That may look like meekness. In fact, it’s a strength. To keep your head while all others are losing theirs and stay focused on the true goal is a skill, learned with patience and observation.
What we need is to find a balance – to stand up for our beliefs without being aggressive, disrespectful or mean. I see posts where people disagree by calling each other names indiscriminately, resulting in more cyberspace insults that do nothing but escalate. One side is never going to convince the other of their own truth, only that they are passionate about it. That passion has become an excuse for incivility.
In our current political climate, people have gone insane, and it’s not helping. That is not to say we should stay silent when we see something we object to – that’s the basis of democracy. But we need to learn to do it in a more productive way.
Personally, I have been very critical of what’s happening in Washington because to sit back and be silent is to condone – that’s my opinion. I’ve never done it before, and I daresay I’m not alone. I’ve always felt that people were entitled to their opinion, live and let live, no skin off my nose.
Not any more. This is too important to me.
One of my own boundaries is to state my opinion and walk away. You are welcome to disagree with me and send me reams of cogent points to back up your own opinion. Civil discourse is welcome here.
But if you call me names or insult my intelligence, you are probably doing it to others, and I will call you out on it by asking why – what is the purpose, the ultimate goal of your comment? That I’m an idiot? Not entirely helpful.
So before you speak, tweet, or post, ask yourself – what do you expect to come out of that conversation? If it’s not productive, it’s not worth your time.
You’re not that important.
Kathy Weyer, author of Stitches and self-proclaimed late bloomer, uses powerful storytelling to open discussions about social issues. www.KathyWeyer.com