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Keep Talking

Keep Talking

Hello and good day!

The other day my dad told me that he no longer wants to talk about politics with certain friends. He told me that things have changed. It seems to him that nowadays nobody is willing to consider another person's point of view and people become combative much more easily than before.

As a result, he is coming to the conclusion that it is better to keep his opinions to himself rather than get into arguments. I don't agree with my father on this one. I don't agree on two counts.

First, I don't think that people are more combative now than they used to be. If you go back and look at history, you will find that political debates were actually much fierier in the past than they are now.

A good example of this is the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, the genesis of which was an acrimonious gubernatorial race in the state of New York.

There are many examples of politicians being beaten bloody in the middle of congressional hearings. It is almost unimaginable that something like that could happen now. It wasn't just grandstanding or power mongering back then, politicians believed so strongly in their point of view that they physically attacked and killed each other.

That kind of thing is very rare these days. I just finished reading the book Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck. It was written in 1962 about a road trip that Steinbeck took in the year 1960 across America.

The purpose of the trip was to find trends in American cultural life. One of the most pronounced trends that Steinbeck noticed, even back in the early 1960's, was self-censorship.

The idea that people are overly sensitive to opposing views, and as a result you should avoid expressing your true opinion, traces its roots in this country back 60 years or more. Social media has likely amplified this shift, but the cause of it lies somewhere deep in the country's past.

The second thing I disagree with my dad about is that people should hold their tongue and be afraid to say what they think. Debating is one of the greatest tools human beings have for fleshing out truth.

There is a wonderful business book author named Patrick Lencioni. I have all of his books and I am a huge fan of his. One of the best lessons I carry with me from his books is about meetings His view is that meetings are wholly unproductive and essentially pointless until people start arguing.

Once the arguments break out, then you know you are talking about something important and not just going through the motions. This is good because for a business to progress and not stagnate the difficult and controversial issues must be tackled and solved. Beating around the bush and dancing around controversial topics is a recipe for mediocrity.

However, and this is super important, the purpose of the argument is to get at the truth, not win the argument. When you realize you are wrong, you should admit you are wrong.

But this is very hard.

Arguing produces hormones that trigger fight or flight. And when you are in fight or flight mode, you prepare yourself for a fight to the death. Battling against biochemistry is usually a losing battle.

The chemicals start affecting your brain in ways that you can't control, and things start to spiral. In order to avoid the spiraling and resulting hard feelings, people stop tackling challenging issues altogether and then things come to a standstill.

Progress stops. The way around all of this is to debate and argue not to win, but to search for truth. And to my mind this means operating from a place of honesty and love.

You have to ask yourself why you want to argue in the first place? Is it because you care so much that you just can't stand seeing somebody have an incorrect understanding? Or is it because you want to prove that you know better and are much smarter than they are?

If you are coming from a place of honesty and love and you think that a person's beliefs are detrimental to themselves and society as a whole, you should genuinely want to convince them. But convincing a person doesn't happen in a single conversation and it takes a lot more effort and thoughtfulness than yelling at somebody for 20 minutes.

If you really care, you'll take your time and strategize in your approach. You'll plant seeds and cultivate them over time. If somebody has thought something for 40 years, do you think you can convince them to change their mind during a one-hour lunch?

Does it make sense to completely write off your attempts at speaking truth because you didn't win in sixty minutes? Isn't that selfish and petulant? If it so important, shouldn't you get your ducks in a row so that you can be as effective as possible? And shouldn't you understand what it will really take?

Convincing anybody of anything is a labor of love. Convincing your kids to work hard takes decades of work. Is it reasonable to think you can yell or browbeat your kids into doing what you want them to do?

Any parent who tries that will be in for a rude awakening. It is certain to backfire. You must coax them into your way of seeing things over time through crafty and skilled teaching.

To wrap this whole thing up. I don't think things are worse than ever before for free speech. I think people are more reasonable than many of us think. Self-censorship has been happening in this country for at least 6 decades.

People are convincing themselves that they shouldn't speak up. And if you do decide to speak up about an important topic that is near and dear to your heart, you ought to do it with due care and preparation.

You can't just spout off and tell people they are wrong and expect them to come around to your way of seeing things. If you care enough to speak up, you should also care enough to do it effectively so that you actually convince people.

By the way, I learned a lot of this stuff by growing up in a tough neighborhood where I was bullied a lot. I had to talk people into leaving me in peace and being my friends. I also picked up a lot of this as a foreigner doing business overseas trying to get people to like me and trust me.

Changing people's minds takes a long time.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!