I have a small favor to ask, a modest request I hereby make of myself and my fellow humans.
People really do say some pretty ridiculous things. It can be infuriating to interact with other minds and so frequently find so little common ground. But, we can prevent every dose of vitriol from sparking a chain reaction.
Next time you're revving up to jump on top of someone for expressing a thought, feeling or opinion, whether that expression occurs on a social media site or anywhere else, take a couple of extra seconds and engage in active listening. Exercise consideration even, and especially, when you feel the other party warrants none. Invest a moment to make sure that you've actually heard what they've said. Do you feel that you fully understand this person's statement? Is it possible to have misread their post? Is there a typo that they've not yet caught? Might your eyes or ears have deceived you in the course of conversation? Or maybe, just maybe, the current definition and connotations that you ascribe to certain words are not identical to those of the speaker/writer to whom you're about to react?
Invest another moment to recognize your own power and the critical part you play in the larger, collective conversation. Take a breath. Bring deliberately to mind the essential humanity of the person you're ready to chew up. Would it be helpful to ask for clarification? Could you possibly discover, in the process of patient, receptive listening, a new and valid perspective on a topic you thought you knew all about? Or might you just save yourself some frustration and red-faced defensive backpedaling?
No matter what the issue, I think we could all stand to slow down, soften up and remember that we're all in this together. It's perfectly healthy to disagree. But, it's all too easy, especially in the context of our pseudo anonymity in the cyber-age, to lash out without considering the consequences. You are immediately connected to the vast majority of the Earth's population by direct means. When you speak and write, it matters. You send ripples through the air and they impact the lives of others, right now.
We already know that the freedom of authentic self-expression is threatened by the established institutions of social control. But, a greater and more insidious threat is the harsh judgement, the shaming and the aggression that we hurl at one another under the mistaken impression that it doesn't really matter.
It does, in fact. It matters in the sense that it manifests: it's an immediate shift in someone's reality. It also matters in the sense that it has inherent relevance.
You have inherent relevance. And so does everything you say.
So, the favor I ask is this: resolve to spend one day, just 24 hours, being more conscious of your communication and the energy that it contributes to this united world. Treat every statement as a seed that will land somewhere and grow into the living embodiment of what you were feeling in that moment. My hope is that eventually we will transmute all our noise into harmony, maintain our distinct, individual voices and hold the space where our differences are cherished instead of beaten down.
I have faith that we are capable of this.
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