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don't talk about this?

Sep 01, 2004 04:44 PM
by Eldon B Tucker

Paul [writing to Erica]:

At 02:28 PM 9/1/2004, you wrote:

I think it would be more effective to actually start new discussion
threads on topics one considers preferable, as opposed to telling
others their interests are inappropriate or unworthy of discussion.
The latter course only adds fuel to the fire, because people don't
like attempts to stifle them.
I'd agree that's the best approach. Saying, "Don't talk about this," is the best way to make someone want to discuss it more. On the other hand, bringing up something so interesting that other people all start jumping in with their ideas -- that's by far the best approach when things start looking bad.

Other times, we can see that a thread is retracing its own steps, going nowhere, and it's time to move on.

Apart from the question of starting new threads or ending old ones, there's the practice that you, I, Erica, and all the rest of us need to follow so that we can coexist with each other, given the diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. That is to acquire the habit of hitting <DELETE> for messages discussing things we're bored with or don't like or may be offended by. It could be long-winded preaching, discussions of sex, condemnation or unqualified praise of historic figures, or highly-partisan politics.

We don't have to answer everything we don't like, because over time the effort would wear any of us down. We're in a cosmopolitan meeting place and get exposed to many more different people and ideas than we might in going to our favorite theosophical, religious, political, or scientific meetings.

A second thing we continually need to be reminded of is that we're talking to real people. Even though we're communicating using the impersonal media of email messages, hundreds of others will read what we say and not just think a response, but feel something. If we are not careful in our writing, even innocent remarks can be read the wrong way and others may feel hurt. This skill, fortunately, comes with practice, and those of us that have been active for a while can usually identify newcomers.

The other thing that's easy to forget is that there's two aspects to a discussion. As Jerry or April Hejka-Ekins might tell us, there's the content and the process. The content is what we're literally saying. The process is how we go about interacting with each other. Say at a lodge meeting, a dozen people are present, discussing a topic. How they talk with each other, who gets to speak, who is recognized, who is encouraged to participate -- all this is part of the process. A group may consider it fine that the most vocal people dominate the meeting and many spend the evening sitting and watching -- "lurking" in person. Another group may want to have more overall participation, and a process-minded person in the group may pointedly ask some of the quiet people what do they think of what's being said.

-- Eldon

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