Crossing the Divide

I have one question.

But let’s not talk about it right now, the question isn’t what’s important. It’s how I ask the question that matters.

Imagine a scenario…

A middle-aged low-level software engineer, who grew up in Spokane, Washington, enjoys Dungeons and Dragons, comic books, and telling anyone who will listen that he’sgluten-free, has just brought up his favorite social media platform.

He wishes to engage in some reasonable debate.

No, seriously, he woke up this morning and after getting a double Chi-latte from the corner coffee store/rent free satellite office of the bike riding entrepreneur set, Mr. Birken McBirkenstock decided he truly wanted to learn how the crazy people think.

The malaise that drifted over the greater northeast and hung like a fog of sorrow since the election was getting to him. He needed answers.

He began to think about the question he wanted to ask.

Across the country, in a small midwestern town with a population less than the average attendance of the Florida Marlins, a woman sits with her cup of coffee…black. There will be silence for less than two more minutes. She thinks about the world during the quiet.

Her normal routine is to get up, feed and clothe the kids, correct the husband’s wardrobe blunders, and get everyone out the door, so she can get ready to go down to her ten-person advertising agency that boasts customers all up and down the Fortune 1,000 list.

She will work, often without lunch, at a breakneck speed, so she can get home to manage the ever-present chaos that comes with keeping a family alive. Her success is easily explained as being the result of Russian bots.

On this day, over a Jimmy John’s sandwich delivered freakishly fast, she will decide to take a six-minute break to log onto her personal social media account and possibly enjoy pictures of baby elephants.

Back in the great northwest, fingers hovering over a keyboard. The intention is pure. He really wants to start a dialog.

He writes, “I just want to ask, and I’m truly interested in understanding, for those of you who support the orange haired, racist, misogynistic, monster who stole the election with the help of his overlord, Mr. Putin, what is it you like about him?”

His inner voice swells with pride as he realizes how enlightened he is for opening a dialog with the ignorant masses. He wonders if he should one day turn to journalism and try to win a Pulitzer.

After opening the bag of chips that came with her sandwich, she “likes” a picture of a baby elephant who is running in front of his parents and his ears have flapped out to the side to make it look like he’s flying.

She scrolls down.

She reads a post from someone on her friend list.

Her head shakes and she mutters to herself, typical. She doesn’t respond. She just moves on. There will be no discussion today.

Words Matter

Are you really interested in starting a dialog or do you just want an excuse to talk about your position to compensate for your own self-doubt, anger, and frustration?

If you are passionate about the right to life movement, do you try to engage the opposing side by bringing up your reasons for how you feel and genuinely requesting opposing views…or do you call them murdering Nazis with questionable grooming habits?

The words matter because no matter where you reside on the political spectrum, you CAN choose to phrase your opening question in a way that is inviting.

Instead of “Murdering Nazis” why not write “Pro-Choice”?

The people you wish to engage in this debate will NOT self-identify as a baby slaughtering Nazi, they will view themselves as a warrior for women’s productive rights.

But Mr./Ms. Voice, If I type the words “Pro-choice” once, won’t that mean that the devil has taken over my soul and I’ll be doomed to spend eternity in hell and during my remaining days, likely gain 20-30 pounds and get more facial hair?

This is a common misconception and the answer is no.

Passion is good

There is nothing wrong with believing mightily in your cause. Fighting for what you believe in, whether it’s Roe v. Wade, Global Warming, or the inevitable mass extension that will be brought on by single-use plastic, is how things get changed.

We used to litter a lot.

Now we don’t nearly so much.

That’s a good thing.

Change is possible, and I encourage people to fight for what they want. But think about the battle plans, please.

If your goal is to see the world become a better place through the implementation of your ideas, you need to understand that there are two paths.

On one, let’s call it the fun path, you belittle and mock the other side with escalating vitriol until one day well into the future the change possibly happens…or it doesn’t.

On the other route, let’s call it the path less traveled, you seek to find flaws in your idea. You seek out alternate perspectives because you truly believe that if everyone is better educated on the issue (including yourself), that it will lead to an improved solution.

So, her is my question…

Can you start a discussion with your target audience’s feelings and beliefs in mind?

You just might change the world if you can.

(Note: This doesn’t apply to discussions involving YOUR NFL team’s rival. There is no place for civility in football talk.)