Play Nice!

Did your mother ever admonish you to “play nice?”  As one of three brothers, we would inevitably end up fighting, so we heard it a lot. Given the current political and social climate, I sometimes wish there was someone with the authority of “mother” to speak out.

“Play nice,” is a simple way of asking that, whether we agree or not, we relate in a respectful way. It is my intention that this be a place where we have a civil, not passionless, but not abusive discussion. I invite you to join me.

What little I have heard from the ‘debates’ between the Republican candidates for President, seem to represent abusive and sometimes uncivil discussion and posturing. The combination of dishonesty and the pandering to people’s fears and greed poison any serious discussion of issues. It makes me wonder if and how one can have a civil discussion with others who are not respectful.

At a meeting with constituents (2009), a woman ranted on various distortions about the President’s health plan, finally asking why Congressman Barney Frank was supporting a “Nazi health plan.” Part of his reply was “Trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table.” He responded with sarcasm addressing her ignorant, insulting and inflexible attitude. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYlZiWK2Iy8

So my question is can and/or how does one have a conversation with others who, intentionally or not, are not respectful, without simply going to their level?

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This entry was posted in Passion, Politics, Relating, Respect, Truth, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Play Nice!

  1. I think this depends on one´s viewpoint… Is the important thing for the person responding to be respected or is the focus of the conversation its content … a matter of boundaries, too, I guess and maybe also depending on whether the person responding is at peace within himself and therefore has no need to retaliate to perceived undercurrants …

    Eva

    • The second part of your reply seems important; the more I am at peace within myself and my position, the less likely I am to be triggered by anything provocative the other puts forth, overtly or hidden. Conversations have both the literal content or subject allegedly being addressed, and the manner in which a person is address it or you. I am writing about treating each other with respect, not necessarily the content which I might find unworthy.

      • You wrote: “I am writing about treating each other with respect, not necessarily the content which I might find unworthy.”
        Mhm, I realize that, I just wonder whether one´s NEED to be respected can sometimes be somewhat hindering to a conversation … I think this could pose a problem when one of the players in the conversation is angry and wants to express this. Anger often doesn´t come out in quite the right, polite words… There is now either the possibility for the angry one sensing the other´s need to be “respected” (protected?) and keeping the anger bottled up, or the angry one just “goes for it” and the one with the need to be respected “has a problem”… So in this case the focus is on the “need to be respected” and not on the content of the conversation.
        I am not saying that conversations should be outright rude, but I think one can go overboard on the other side as well … What do you think?

  2. First of all, I hope others join in here with their perspectives.
    A perhaps ironic generality I have found as a psychotherapist, is that those who are most worried about offending others with how or what they say are the ones who most need to be more direct. The inverse is also often true; those who claim to be just speaking their mind tend to be those who are behaving or communicating in ways abusive to others. If you say you like chocolate and I respond that I find chocolate disgusting, that it upsets my stomach or whatever, that is strong disagreement. If I respond that you must be a fool to eat something as unhealthy as chocolate then I am moving toward a more abusive way of relating. Disclaimer: I actually love dark chocolate

    • Vivien Henderson says:

      It seems to me that when two people are curious about a topic they approach their inquiry in a co-operative manner. However, when one has a vested interest in their point of view the inquiry tends to shift to being competitive which in turn can evoke the negative reactions of anger, envy, jealousy and the people engaged in the dialogue no longer listen to each other and this leads to deterioration an rupture of the connection between people.

      • LOL, Viv, what you are saying seems to me a pretty accurate description/reflection of what is going on here beween Dave and me at present (minus the second part “which in turn can evoke the negative reactions of anger, envy, jealousy…”) …

    • Dave, I am sort of wondering, whether you were/are expecting a response to your initial question to go in a certain direction and my reply didn´t quite comply with your expectation? Or am I just insisting on my point of view here? (*chuckle*)

  3. Oh, maybe a bit impolite of me, not to introduce myself in my first post … sorry! As I write little on the the GP-list and never have been to any of the conferences, I can´t expect that you remember who I am …
    So here we go: I had joined the GP-list quite a few years ago when I was working with a group of psychologists in Germany on a psychol./psychiatric journal (Journal of Dynamic Psychiatry) which I have long since left but hung around on the list, as I find it quite interesting and a bit feel like “knowing” the people on the list after so many years (oh, the wonders of the internet 😉 …
    Amamong other stuff I have translated two psychology books into German and am taking care of a medical journal theses days (Journal of Vascular Research) … Besides that I am a musical instrument technician/maker specializing in flutes …
    I am looking forward to serious conversations and friendly banter on this blog and anything in between 🙂

  4. Ps: … and for pasttime I am mainly into swords (chinese martial arts weopon training and medieval sword fighting skills) or playing scottish music on flute or fiddle … even though these are completely different from what I do “workwise”, as being self-employed I don´t differentiate too much between work and play though … 🙂 so, off into the workshop to work on a flute headjoint which is giving me a bit of trouble at the moment … Alas, it shall be tamed!

  5. Thanks, Viv and Eva for your contributions. Since you raised it, I should mention that the three of us have “met” before on an online listserv for Group Psychotherapy. Hopefully others not involved with the list will also join in here.

    Eva: I don’t think we are actually crossing swords here 😉 (Foolish to do with a swords person!) What I am trying to focus on is how one balances the desire to express oneself fully, with how one treats others with whom you are trying to communicate. You seem to focus on the costs of inhibiting one’s expression which of course is part of this process.

    Viv: Your comments about vested interests hits upon what I mean. I think it is possible to hold a vested position (the Truth) without moving to defensive reactions such as jealousy, blame and attacks, but not easy.

    Eva & Viv & Others: My question goes to what happens when the person(s) I am trying to communicate with seem less interested in exchanging ideas or perceptions and more interested in “winning?” Do I simply withdraw? Do I compete for who is right or most righteous or the bigger victim or whatever, joining that level of expression? How can I attempt to continue to engage in a way to actually connects with the other whether in agreement or not? And when is it better to struggle or leave?

    By the way, I don’t expect any simple answer; I image the answers depend a lot on who is talking about what.

  6. Robert Kane says:

    I suppose when one is more interested in “winning”, one winds up like Charlie Sheen – Winning! *LOL*

    P.S. – this is just a joke from a non-therapist – no need to analyze my reply! Happy new year to all.

    Bob & Leo the wonder dog

  7. You wrote: “What I am trying to focus on is how one balances the desire to express oneself fully, with how one treats others with whom you are trying to communicate. You seem to focus on the costs of inhibiting one’s expression which of course is part of this process.”
    ->Mhm, not really, I was just wondering why it is sooo important to you to be respected …. For the sake of the content of the conversation, or maybe also for the sake of the person I am engaging with, I guess sometimes one should just ignore the not being respected part …

    You wrote: “My question goes to what happens when the person(s) I am trying to communicate with seem less interested in exchanging ideas or perceptions and more interested in “winning?”
    -> If I am at peace with myself, what´s wrong with letting them win … we do that with children, too, don´t we? 😉

    You wrote: “Do I simply withdraw?
    If you can´t handle what is going on, that may be a good idea for the time being …

    Do I compete for who is right or most righteous or the bigger victim or whatever, joining that level of expression?
    -> In my opinion there is not much sense in that, as it leads absolutely nowhere and in itself is not very respectful to the other person …

    You wrote: “How can I attempt to continue to engage in a way to actually connects with the other whether in agreement or not? And when is it better to struggle or leave?
    -> I wonder whether this question can be answered theoretically as it depends on too many variables …

  8. Thanks for your responses Eva. My initial question was intentionally open ended. I wanted to leave the discussion open to see where people would go with it. Since our responses will be different in different contexts, any general answers would not likely be useful.

    Specifics help, whether they are personal stories or things in the public domain. The Barney Frank story was something I could briefly describe, which I hoped would both clarify some of what I am getting at, as well as trigger thoughts of other situations people might discuss.

    In terms of the here and now, I am also attempting to define some boundaries for discussion. When I mentioned respect, what I am attempting to communicate is that for here, what I want are people who are willing to be honest about what they think and feel, but are also willing to express it without attacking others who may disagree with them.

    Obviously, in the world at large, there are no such requirements. Indeed too much of what is portrayed as communication, analysis, at times even science, are actually attempts at getting others to buy what is being said or sold regardless of the truth. And in my opinion, such manipulation is entirely too acceptable in societies at large.

  9. I wonder whether your last paragraph might not be a bit too much of a generalization … but maybe this is your experience, I don´t quite see it this way and if I DO encounter people like that, who habitually “communicate” in a manipulating way, there is no need for me to stick around, is there?
    On another note, this might also be a largely cultural thing … for example in Japan honour and respect, especially for elderly people, is very much ingrained into the culture …

    As to “what I want are people who are willing to be honest about what they think and feel, but are also willing to express it without attacking others who may disagree with them.”
    That is interesting … but why so careful and not trust in people being good natured for the most part …? Blogs, as I have encountered them until now, are usually about things that interest the blog owner and where other people join into the conversation to sort of develop a line of thought… I have never come across a blog before where the “behavour guidelines” within the blog are at the same time the content of the blog… this could possibly prove boring after some time for lack of content 😉

  10. dr. bob says:

    > So my question is can and/or how does one have a conversation with others who, intentionally or not, are not respectful, without simply going to their level?
    I encourage the political equivalent of I-statements: espousing one’s own beliefs and not critiquing others’.

  11. I think the “I” statements, where the emphasis is on stating what you want or believe or are thinking is less likely to trigger others as they are not judgmental. A good point, Bob.

  12. AJ says:

    Hey David. Great blog site!!!
    Most people associate the word “GOOD” as being the opposite of ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ which is contextually incorrect. Truth is that ‘good’ refers to a state of wholeness and when something is whole it is all encompassing for which their can be no opposite.
    The word ‘good’ gets its origin from the root word ’gōd’ or ’ghedh’ which in Old English, translates to “that which is whole, virtuous, complete, pure, unblemished/unbroken.” When something is whole and complete it is all-encompassing and nothing that is all-encompassing can have an opposite. Even the bible makes reference to ‘good’ as being a state of completion. In the book of Genesis, first chapter. Throughout the acts of creation the phrase “…and it was good” is repeated numerous times.

    When we allow ourselves to see the good in others what we are doing is inviting the presence of God that is within them to UNITE with the presence of God that is within us. When that connection is active all we know, all we see, all we want, and all we care about is the experience of Love.

    I also wanted to add something on the subject of ‘affirmative prayer.’ ‘Affirmative prayer’, originally called “Spiritual Mind Treatment” is a tool that was developed for the purpose of aligning one’s will with that of God’s. It’s important that people understand that it has nothing to do with there being a correct or incorrect or more effective vs. ineffective way of praying.

    Spiritual mind treatments are intended to benefit US. Through the use of positive affirmations we are able to connect with an Almighty Source that knows our needs and wants long before we do. There’s NOTHING that we could ever want, need, hope, wish, or ask for that we have not already been given on some level.

    Faith is its own reward. Faith is NOT about believing that our prayers will be answered as we might hope for. Having faith is about feeling safe when we are most vulnerable. It’s about believing that everything will be okay no matter what.

    Having faith in God is pointless. It is not God, but rather, it’s His promises that we put our faith in. Promises such as that or “providence.” You could liken it to a bridge and it’s builders. They built the bridge but crossing that bridge wouldn’t require faith in the builders., instead, it would require faith in the bridge itself.

    Faith also serves to nurture our positive affirmations. Prayer is like planting a seed. When we plant a seed we must nurture and cultivate it and give it healthy room to grow (manifest). But if we dig it up to see if it’s grown any roots then all w’re doing is interfering with the process.

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