One question that always, always, always arises when we are out and about talking about compassion concerns the anger in public discourse. How can we re-learn how to discuss important and controversial issues without resorting to shouting and name calling?

Christopher R. Hill, writing in the blog Project Syndicate, offers some insight:

Instant access to information does not mean instant access to knowledge, much less wisdom. One aspect of knowledge, as we know from nineteenth-century philosophy (and who studies that anymore?), reflects the integration of information with experience. Today, information is integrated with emotion – and with suspicion, sometimes bordering on paranoia, about the underlying motives of the leadership classes. . . .

Indeed, perhaps the most damaging aspect of all of our wonderful technology is that it enables us to live blissfully apart from those with whom we disagree. Our access to news can be tailored to our preconceived opinions. Even where people live seems to be having an effect. The proliferation of gated communities across America has increased the odds that people will live only with those who vote the same way.
Read the entire commentary, “The Politics of Anger Management.”

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”– Albert Einstein

What tips do you have for discussing a hot topic in a lively, challenging yet civilized way with people with whom you profoundly disagree on important issues? Do you seek out opinions and ideas that differ from yours or stick to sources (and face-to-face encounters) that reinforce your beliefs and opinions?

One technique I have used successfully is to re-state a rude or hostile remark in more neutral language. The attacker usually follows my lead. For example:

He says: Susan, you are an idiot.

I reply: It’s possible that I have my facts wrong, have interpreted them incorrectly, or stated my position clumsily. What, specifically, have I said that strikes you as inaccurate? Maybe I can clear that up.


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