Thursday, November 19, 2009
Baby Steps, the path to rhetoric
I believe in personal growth. We all change. We aren't static. Maybe some refuse to accept the presence of change because the gradualness of the process can make perception of it difficult.
Personally, one thing I'm working on, and often failing at, is not attacking people for their beliefs. I am an opinionated man and am not shy about expressing myself. So conflict often ensues when I run into someone else who is also opinionated and outspoken.
One thing that sparked this reflection is a book on rhetoric. The authors argued that too often we assume a person's opinions are intrinsically tied to a person's personality. Therefore, challenging that person is likely to be threatening to that person and will block true discourse. Another author tried to address the barriers to communication by stating: "Superior people hold superior beliefs, thus non-believers are unworthy of equal treatment."
Communication, of course, is about listening and understanding a point of view. It is dispassionately picking apart an point of view and looking for flaws and strengths of an argument. It is not shouting at one another across a table on a TV talk show or across a negotiating table.
I've tried to remain apolitical on this blog, at least over the last couple years. However, I will make this political statement: open and intelligent discourse is a crucial element of democracy. Holding fast to a belief without intellectual curiosity is the path to stratification and solidification of feelings which might threaten the sense of unity that is conducive to domestic tranquility.
So here's to the much slandered concept of true rhetoric. Here's to true communication where listening is an active process and not something that occurs merely while we're catching breaths. And for those of my friends who hear me blast someone and shred an ego or two, remember I'm a work in progress.
Posted by Stewart Sternberg at 7:25 PM