What we believe ~ don't take it personally

When people get together in real life and online, they naturally share different aspects of their lives - where they work, their hobbies, their religious beliefs, political leanings, and where their kids go to school.

It is also natural that not everyone is of the same mind in these areas. It is when we take these differences personally that problems arise.

We make choices based on many different factors, including but not limited to how and where we were raised, attended school and church, cultural and ethnic influences, and the life experiences that have shaped us into who we are today.

That is to say, it ain't always about us.

We are fortunate to be able to freely express our opinions. But we shouldn't treat this freedom as an excuse to be abusive, manipulative, coercive, or domineering.

There are a variety of ways that we can communicate with others and share our deeply held beliefs, and each medium has its advantages and disadvantages. Chatting online is great when it's someone you know personally, who has context for what you've said. But the black&white print on the screen doesn't convey our past experiences, facial expressions, or tone of voice. It takes an extra measure of discernment to be able to relate our ideas in a way that is understandable.

I've learned over the years that few people were instructed in the art of discussion and debate. Logical fallacies tend to drain all of the energy out of what could be a beneficial dialogue.  What we can do to make our communications more productive is to focus on the issues at hand, and on the outcomes we hope to achieve.

It helps to remember that our convictions come from many sources, woven together from knowledge, hopes, and influences, to form the bedrock of our thinking. If mutual respect and understanding is our goal, then our methods should reflect that.

The confidence and enthusiasm with which we share our convictions need not be perceived as incrimination if we salt our speech liberally with civility and reason. If we truly believe our view is best, please recognize that we won't change anyone's mind with insults, barbs, and vilification. In addition to being a logical fallacy, it's immature and destructive.

If we present our beliefs as based in fact, we should be able to present those facts, and know on what our 'facts' are based. In other words, if our evidence is truly authentic, supportable, and verifiable, it shouldn't be difficult to share it with others. 

The person to whom we are speaking is a fellow human being, and if we "do unto others as we would have them do unto us", our speech, even when zealously affected,  will be balanced with compassion and courtesy.

Communication is essentially the giving and receiving of ideas. It is up to us to make these exchanges pleasurable and profitable.