A Wounded Animal…Or How to Tell When Someone Has Stopped Listening.

In the spirit of constructive communication and civility, I found this video has some very interesting pointers about how to tell when a discussion is going south…

To sum up: If you want to someone to hear what you are saying, it is importannt to recognise these warning signs that they are shutting down emotionally:

  • #1: Being stunned by new information.
  • #2: Inaccurately summarizing the other’s perspective.
  • #3: Misreading nefarious intent.
  • #4: Regularly moving goalposts.
  • #5: Yelling or getting angry.
  • #6: Attacking someone’s character.
  • #7: Retreating Without Concession

Nothing new here, but many people are not taught how to recognise discomfort in others. And since our culture is becomming more diverse, people are retreating to silence instead of engaging because discussions quickly break down.

Winning The Argument Or Saving the Friendship

Unfortunately, the “solution” offered towards the end of video is helpful if one needs to pursuade one’s oppenent to accept your point, but is not always successful. This is especially true when dealing with deep cultural differences. Conflicts on fundamental values or those which involve group cohesion are not going to be won over by reason alone. For example, you are not going to convince someone to leave their religion just because you have an argument that sounds reasonable. You may be putting the person in a position which will cut this person off from family and/or community ties. Some issues and worldviews run deeper than logic.

Still, the information in this video could save some friendships from completely unraveling. If your oppenent begins to show these signs, it might be time to drop it and get a beer. As this is getting harder and harder to do these days, this might be more valuable than winning the debate.

Breaking News: Our Daily Soap Opera

The News cycle is designed to keep us tuned in for the next installment. It’s purpose is to make us believe that if we don’t check in every hour we will miss out on something important. The article quoted below was written some time ago, however most people still don’t know the real history of news reporting and how it has changed over time.

If you understand the purpose of our modern day news cycle, then it can help to put the little information we get into context and hopefully remove some of the anxiety it produces in us. We do not have to live in a continuous crisis mode.

What has emerged, Weaver argues, is a culture of lying. “The culture of lying,” he writes, “is the discourse and behavior of officials seeking to enlist the powers of journalism in support of their goals, and of journalists seeking to co-opt public and private officials into their efforts to find and cover stories of crisis and emergency response. It is the medium through which we Americans conduct most of our public business (and a lot of our private business) these days.” The result, he says, is a distortion of the constitutional role of government into an institution that must continually resolve or appear to resolve crises; it functions in “a new and powerful permanent emergency mode of operation.”

The architect of the transformation was not a political leader or a constitutional convention but Joseph Pulitzer, who in 1883 bought the sleepy New York World and in 20 years made it the country’s largest newspaper. Pulitzer accomplished that by bringing drama to news—by turning news articles into stories with a plot, actors in conflict, and colorful details. In the late nineteenth century, most newspaper accounts of government actions were couched in institutional formats, much like the minutes of a board meeting and about as interesting. Pulitzer turned them into stories with a sharp dramatic focus that both implied and aroused intense public interest. Most newspapers of the time looked like the front page of the Wall Street Journal still does. Pulitzer made stories dramatic by adding blaring headlines, big pictures, and eye-catching graphics. His journalism took events out of their dry, institutional contexts and made them emotional rather than rational, immediate rather than considered, and sensational rather than informative. The press became a stage on which the actions of government were a series of dramas.

Why the News Is Not the Truth by Peter Vanderwicken, Harvard Business Review (May-June 1995)

What Is Transcendence?

Recently I read a book about different world views. One of the questions that was used to describe each view was whether the universe was considered to be open or closed to transcendence. This is a short-hand way of saying that while the universe follows orderly (physical) processes, the universe may be viewed as open or closed to re-ordering by the actions of God and/or by human beings. For example, a completely mechanistic worldview does not accept that God exists and states that human beings are biological machines. Therefore, transcendence is impossible. The universe is closed.

I have a love/hate relationship with this terminology. On the one hand, I believe this is exactly how most people view the concept of transcendence in this age. As an accurate description of many cultural worldviews and personal mental maps, it is a useful way to look at how people think of themselves and their place in life. It affects how they look at the future (determinate or indeterminate). It explains how they view death and what motivates them in life.

Continue reading “What Is Transcendence?”

In Full Bloom…

Life is finally returning to our backyard. Here in Texas, we live from drought to drought but fortunately, we have had a good amount of rain this year. It is common to hear Texans complain about the rain and the floods that come with it, then add, “But, we needed it.” Rain is rarely a gentle thing here. It is more like the sky opens up and blasts of water and hail come crashing down. However, even when it ends up with dangerous flooding we need whatever we can get. And now, with all the people moving to Texas from other parts of the country, we will need even more – just hopefully not all at once.

It took me several months to get a better emergency plan enacted in this household and we are still learning about our new equipment. I also put in place a new grocery and budget plan so that we will be not be caught by surprise the next time a power grid breakdown occurs. I’m sure I haven’t thought of everything. There are always problems one can’t anticipate, but we should be okay.

Next week, my husband and I will be traveling to New York for his brother’s memorial. So, this is a short post because we are still preparing to do that. When I return I will be posting more often. And I will begin with some resources that helped me do all the emergency and food storage preparations that I have been consumed with the past few months.

I feel we have turned a corner and I am glad life is returning to normal…whatever that is these days.

Until next time. 🙂

Life and Death in the Texas Snowpocalypse

It doesn’t look like a dangerous amount of snow – especially to someone who grew up in New York like me – but this is Texas. Even if one knows how to drive in snow, one knows it’s not worth the risk to drive on the same roads with those who don’t. The Dallas,Texas pileup video below tragically illustrates the danger of traveling in Texas during winter storms. It involved about 100 vehicles, five people died and over 60 were sent to hospitals. It’s amazing to me that the death toll wasn’t higher.

February delivered two blows to our family in Texas. At the beginning of the month word came that my husband’s brother was dying from cancer – he himself had only learned of the diagnosis for less than a week. Less than 24 hours later he passed away. Years ago a friend, who has also passed on, said to me that it seems to us some people just aren’t supposed to die and that’s why it’s so much harder when they die. My brother-in-law was one of those people. It’s only been a little more than a month since he’s been gone, but we are still in shock over it. His strength and good heart will never be forgotten by those who knew him.

Continue reading “Life and Death in the Texas Snowpocalypse”