Thursday, September 13, 2007

What it Means to Assume

I’m a painter not a pointer. There, I’ve said it.

When speaking with friends and acquaintances about current issues and such, I find myself defending opinions I don’t necessarily agree with. In many cases when I first bring up a topic, I’m at the beginning of my thought process. In my mind I’m saying, “let’s discuss the different sides of this issue and see where we end up,” whereas the other conversationalist hears me saying, “this is what I think, how ‘bout you?”

This makes for some tense discussions, because while I like to think aloud and talk things through as I go, further cementing an opinion on an issue, I find that others have their opinion already firmly in place. Sometimes I’m eviscerated for taking a stance when, in fact, I’m not taking a stance and am only beginning to work out what my stance would be if, indeed, I decided to have one.

I once read an article on MSN Lifestyle: Relationships about arguing with one’s spouse. The writer stated that she and her husband used to always argue about things, and then her husband would (in her mind) change his tune at the end. Thinking that he was merely placating her, she would either feel guilt about haranguing him into changing his stance or anger at his flip-flop personality.

She then went on to document future arguments and take special notice of her husband’s comments during each. She noticed that he wasn’t purposefully being a flip-flopper, just that he had a different way of thinking through his argument. While she formulized her arguments and opinions internally, he liked to talk through them aloud and receive feedback as he progressed.

I find that my process is similar to this poor schmuck of a husband, and that I also like to talk through my ideas aloud and get input as I go.

From now on I think I shall initiate each conversation with, “One opinion on -insert issue here- is thus, what do you think?” and then take the discussion from there. Then maybe I can have civilized conversations with people on hot-button issues without either side becoming defensive. After all, I can’t help that I like to talk my opinions through aloud and then make a judgment, but maybe I can help the part where I begin talking and the other person believes I’m already stating my steadfast opinion.

Tip to you, dear reader (and to myself): Think before you speak. If you’re not a person who does that naturally, then at least preface your comment with, “this isn’t my opinion, it’s just one side of this issue. What do you think?”

By the way, Bill Gates (a.k.a. Microsoft Word) doesn’t recognize that “preface” can be used as a noun and a verb. What will happen to our children’s grammar ability if they keep being so restricted? I shudder to imagine.

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