The Signs of Communication

With communication today, two extremities of communication exist: self-expression and speaking with discretion. Self-expression, or speaking openly on any topic without much censorship or use of etiquette, is common by most of the population. The second, opposite extreme, is speaking with discretion and saying very little in order to preserve one’s reputation. This is more typical of professionals and anyone of class, although it may not necessarily always the case. How are either of these improving the way we communicate? How are both of these skewing the line of civilized communication?

Self-Expression
The first extreme of communication is self-expression which has become an acceptable way to communicate today for most Americans. Unlike other countries, the United States does not have laws against hate speech. What a person says has no societal limitations in most settings. With this increase in self-expression, and decrease in societal parameters for civilized speech, the majority of the population feels they can say whatever they want—and for the most part they do. There is little thought put into what is said. Rather than considering how what is communicated might hurt or offend another, the priority is placed on voicing opinions without discretion, using uncivilized expressions, and being heard.

In the past, social standards influenced improper communication. In Roman and Greek cultures, speaking was seen as an art which had to be mastered before a person was given the right to speak on a topic. It could take years to master becoming an orator. The aspiring speaker had to first learn the art by studying the writings of philosophers, mastering grammar, and learning how to speak. In more modern times, within the United States, social standards set the acceptability of civilized speech and good etiquette. Even a minor comment could eliminate a person from social circles. Differences of opinion could certainly make for a worthy topic of discussion. However, being cordial was expected at a minimum for more vivacious discussions which could lead to arguments. It was possible for people to be accepted, although they might have differing opinions, and still be valued and respected with human dignity.

Within the last 50 years, there has been a shift to self-expression. The ability to say whatever is on a person’s mind is acceptable whether in person or online. There are hardly any limits to what a person may speak about. Open communication is seen as a way to provide transparency and the “honest story” of any person or situation. While this has many benefits, it crosses a line when dignity is stepped upon and boundaries are crossed. Consideration is necessary before speaking with regards to whom a person is talking to, if the topic is appropriate, and the choice of respectful words which are said for a pleasant conversation. Talking about anything can be very damaging. In fact, much of what people talk about has veered away from “ideas” and “intellectual topics”. Instead, what is more common is digressive speech such as gossip or speaking of topics which are inappropriate, very personal or sensitive in nature, or comments which might advertise the negative rather than focus on the positive. There is no preservation of the human dignity of a person. What needs to be said, is what is said, regardless of how it may hurt or offend the other person.

On social networks, a simple post can flare up into a war of replies within seconds. This trolling is often classified inaccurately as a “discussion” and “freedom of speech”. It would be better described as intolerance for a different view which triggers others chiming in to counter the post with an escalating degree of negativity and close-mindedness. These can occur even on simple posts that may not have any intent to attract opinions, but which result in a soapbox of negative, heated, responses. While self-expression allows for openness and problem solving, it can also open the door for adversity. Communication on digressive topics, and intentionally creating unnecessary conflict are examples of unhealthy communication. Speaking about anything without consideration of another person is rude and uncivilized.

The Power of Silence
The other extreme for communication is to choose to say very little or to remain silent. By speaking cautiously a person is more likely to preserve their good reputation. It also provides safety, by finding no partiality to any party or issue. The person remains politically correct by withholding an opinion. In many spiritual teachings, silence is perceived as golden. By remaining silent, a person can reflect wisdom. Remaining silent, a person does not reveal what they know or do not know. Likewise, by not speaking, there is less of a chance of speaking in an unintelligent manner, speaking offensively, or divulging information which should not be revealed. Remaining silent is also a way to absorb heated conflict, inappropriate speech, and to buy in time to respond with a more thoughtful response.

There is a time and a place to speak. George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter”.  While we should speak out rather than remain silent on situations of injustice, on political views or ways that may affect our life, saying less, rather than more can be a way which contributes to civility. Voicing an opinion without consideration, can breed hate more than solve problems. This is where uncivilized speech occurs. In today’s culture, it is more likely that the freedom of speech is taken too far through the self-expression of uncivilized conversation. Self-expression can be the ignition of unnecessary conflict just to express an opinion. When freedom of speech is taken to this extreme, responding with silence can help swing the equilibrium of communication, bringing it back to more peaceful speech and civilized communication. Knowing when to speak and when not to speak is important.

Finding the Balance with Human Dignity and Respect
Some social and professional settings still have standards for communication, although uncivilized speech is more popular. Realizing that there is a place for self-expression while maintaining a standard for civilized communication is the challenge which we face today. Many do not recognize digressive communication. Being desensitized by the current standard, hardly anyone today questions inappropriate speech which is on the tongues of most and found in media and by leaders. If culture continues to accept digressive speech, it is a reflection on our country, acceptability for digression and lack of etiquette, and is an insult to the right to the Freedom of Speech which we have. The First Amendment was created for Americans to speak up for freedom and liberties for all. With an acceptability of hate speech and speaking on digressive topics, society is infected with negativity, hate, unacceptability, intolerance for differences, immaturity, a lack of professionalism, and lack of human dignity. It shows an inability to communicate and interact with others. For a country which prides itself on being a melting pot, this is not congruent. Although not everyone will get along, there needs to be a greater degree of respect for differences whether it is race, belief, lifestyle, ability, economic or any other characteristic. Valuing differences and human life needs a higher tolerance and acceptance. Inequality will always exist, but human dignity needs to be upheld. Since the primary problem of unacceptability stems from inappropriate speech, correcting communication that is off-balance can help set society upright to a culture with a civilized standard.


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Freedom of Speech: Rights and Liberties under the Law (America’s Freedoms)
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Free Speech and Censorship: Examining the Facts (Contemporary Debates)
by Harold L. Pohlman

Choosing Civility
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The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude
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The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It
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Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration
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Shouting Fire: Stories From The Edge Of Free Speech
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Documentary
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Respect the Box of Chocolates

Mysterious, chocolate covered candies of sweetness all in different shapes and coatings lined up in neat little rows, ready to be enjoyed. Referencing the card or box is the only way to tell what might be delighting your taste buds next. Which one is the ‘best’ is hard to tell, but most of them will probably suit your fancy.  

Each person is unique, just like these chocolates in a box. Many classify people by trying to match them against the persona of ‘the ideal type’. Whomever sets these criteria listens to what our culture finds as the most satisfying, pleasing, and acceptable. These qualities are sure to make 100% of everyone happiest. Usually the recommendations as to what is ‘best’ are in reference to physical attributes or materialistic possessions. If you want the perfect person, you must look for xyz or else, it won’t work. If you do not have these clothes, this house, this demeanor, this belief system, then you are not in-bounds. These hypercritical people spend so much time pointing out what is wrong with others, instead of using their time more productively identifying what does works for them and seeking companionship with those Even better use of time would be for these nitpickers to work on fine-tuning what is lacking in themselves which might be contributing to their unhappiness.

Self-confidence is sometimes achieved in a negative way by nitpicking at others faults in areas which are not a concern to that person. A much better approach would be to focus on the attributes that are best liked in others. By accentuating these, a person learns to appreciate the uniqueness of each individual and the gifts that person bring to this world. If a person is not liked, move on. It’s that simple. There are 7.5 billion people who are out there to be met. What good does it do to tear people down who you don’t like? In fact, when it comes to civility it is considered rude to point out what you do not like in others. A person cannot be that attached to what they do not like in someone. It is better to walk away rather than try to get another person to change to meet what you would like to see, especially if it is not important to them. People are not meant to be forced to fit into the same sized cube. Not everyone is going to look the same, believe the same, or want the same things you do. 

To some, respecting differences in others comes naturally. They enjoy people because they are different, and there is enough common ground which exists to maintain a friendship. These people find it refreshing to be around many different kinds of people who add an eclectic aspect to their social interactions. A wider perspective is needed for those who cannot see past differences. Instead of seeing uniqueness, or focusing on the positive attributes, they become hostile and attacking. These people would benefit from wearing special filtered glasses. They need to realize that their cube is not the only cube. Expanding their minds with special glasses might open new frontiers for them.

Respect others with silence and an open mind toward learning about their perspective or beliefs. Find commonality, grow empathy, and accentuate the positive. Try to observe that a view might be different does not qualify the acceptance of a person’s existence. When despised differences are made into the intolerance of the person’s existence, stereotypes and discrimination form. Each person, no matter what their perspective is, should be given dignity and human worth. Some people will be better suited for you than others, and in fact, most probably will work with your persona of ideal, and even within the margins you have around that ideal which define your acceptability range…but for those who aren’t within your framework, destroying them because they are not the same as you, is not OK. There is value in having differing opinions, and civility should still be maintained despite differences.

Try this. Buy a variety box of chocolates. You can even find a small box at the dollar store. When you open it look at the chocolates and I would guess a smile would come to your face. Those, you could say, are all the people you could meet—you just don’t know what they are about or what they are inside. You are only judging by appearance and what you think they are about. Then pick one, delicately take a bite and admire the inside, and see if it is satisfactory. It probably is a taste of the divine. If not, then you can try another one. What would be worse never getting to know anything different than your view and giving it some worth. In essence it is insulting the Maker because of all the reasons you cannot stand this on or that one, and not finding any quality to appreciate. There is beauty and appreciation to be found in everyone. What is so nice is the uniqueness of each individual..


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Books
The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World
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The Gifts of Acceptance: Embracing People And Things as They Are
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Appreciate People!:
The Path to Understanding, Acceptance, Compassion, Respect and Love

by Miriam Adahan

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Box of Chocolates


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Cultivation of Empathy

In a world where we seem to be separating from each other with our ‘me-ism’, never in the history of mankind has there been a greater need for empathy and understanding of other people. Technology helps us connect, making it is easier than ever to communicate. Yet, despite this, we seem to be more focused on ourselves and our individual opinions than being genuinely concerned with the lives of other people. We can easily remain detached from each other, severing the connection at any time by turning off the switch to the device we are using or closing an app. On the other hand, technology can give us instant insights as to what another person is doing and how they are feeling within moments shared during their day. What is loss in technology is the invaluable human emotions which can only be seen and felt in person. The human relationship that exists with a face-to-face, real-time interaction, is where we connect on a human level, experiencing the joys, the sorrows, the presence of human souls in their existence, and in the way which humans were meant to connect. While technology is one way to extend empathy and connect, making time in person with people is where empathy is truly cultivated best.

We have our own social circles with family and friends where we find belonging. Belonging is one of the essential parts of human existence. Within these circles there are people who are accepted as part of them, and those who are not accepted. Developing a greater sense of empathy might be a consideration, for those groups or social circles which have an exclusive nature about them. Seeing people outside these circles as ‘outsiders’ and not acceptable, may be conquered with greater empathy, by understanding those who are different from us. It is easy to breed stereotypes and assumptions without truly getting to know others who are different. Finding common ground with ‘outsiders’, extends a hand of acceptance despite these differences. Rather than following assumptions, taking the opportunity to learn more about other beliefs first-hand or through research, is an opportunity to make a new friend rather than cause isolation. What better way to enrich a social circle than to use good etiquette and empathy toward other people and facets of life—and as an added benefit may learn from them as well.

What is interesting is that within some cultures, stereotypes and exclusiveness seem to be the quickest route to elitism. Cultures should find this appalling rather than applauding this. There is a special richness found when people of different backgrounds, each with their own stories, can contribute to circles with their individual qualities. Well-rounded people are those who have a rich portfolio of many kinds of friends and see human-value over differences. Typically those who travel the world are more likely to be accepting, as there is an appreciation for different cultures and beliefs. Those who work directly with people, such as caregivers also have a tendency to extend empathy easier because they see past medical and physical issues and are able to see the person. Young children also are naturally more empathetic in their innocence, blinded to the stereotypes which are formed even at an early age taught by their families and in social circles.

Additionally, media has an influence on cultivating empathy. Media can provide education in a unique way, where a person can learn about a situation first-hand by viewing it on screen or reading a description of it. Stories are a way to educate as they pull heart-strings and provide a chance to understand what it might be to “walk in another person’s shoes”. It may be easier for a person to find empathy with an actor who lives a situation within a movie, versus a stranger who we encounter in real life.

Empathy is a way to extend kindness to another person through understanding. It is with empathy that we find a path to growth. Cultivating empathy means finding opportunities to expanding our minds beyond ourselves to include another.

Article written for Zealousness publication
www.ineducationonline.org/e-magazine


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