Talk To Me

IMG_0237When I was a freshman in college, I became good friends with a young woman who was a Christian Scientist.  We would spend hours talking to each other about anything and everything, including religion.  She once told me that she had never felt so free to discuss her religious beliefs with anyone before, and I felt exactly the same way.  Which may seem a bit odd, because I’m not a Christian Scientist.

I think what made our discussions, and even our friendship, work was the way we talked to each other.  We expressed our own feelings and beliefs, honestly and openly, and then really listened to what the other person had to say.  She didn’t try to change my mind and I didn’t try to change hers.  But I learned a lot from those long talks with my friend, because they forced me to think about just why I agreed with her on some points and disagreed on others.  In other words, she challenged me to really examine just exactly what I believed, and why.

My friend transferred to another college after her freshman year, and we gradually lost touch with each other.  But the lesson I learned from her has stuck with me.  I think of it every time I watch a political debate, read about a religious war, or even just scroll through the news feed on my Facebook page and see all the petty sniping and bickering.  Because here’s the thing:  if you really want someone to listen to your point of view, you need to talk to them.  Not lecture them, or ridicule them, or attack them….just talk to them.  The way you would want someone to talk to you.

Somewhere along the way, it seems that many of us have forgotten how to do that.  We seem to think it’s our duty to point out other people’s faults, usually in a way that degrades them and allows us to feel superior.  While we can do that if we want, it’s not at all an effective way to get our point across.  And as a method for changing someone’s heart and mind, it’s a complete failure.

I know I’m lucky, because I still have a few friends I can talk to, openly and honestly, about anything at all…..even those “hot button” subjects like religion or politics.  We manage it the same way my old college friend and I did, by speaking from our hearts and  listening respectfully to what the other person has to say.  We always say “I disagree” rather than “you’re wrong.”

Sometimes I change my mind after one of our discussions, and sometimes I don’t, but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that they give me some insight into a different perspective, and they leave me feeling that my voice has also been heard.  And that always reminds that good things can happen when people simply talk to each other.

94 thoughts on “Talk To Me

    • I long for them too, Kim! But as you say, all we can do is try to set the example ourselves, and hope that others will follow. Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s always worth the effort, I think.

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  1. Far too often, conversation devolves because one or both of the participants (or the whole group, if more are involved) won’t listen. We’ve all talked with people who clearly are waiting for someone to take a breath to they can get back to talking about themselves, or their convictions. The most amusing example’s the sort of “conversation” found at cocktail parties. I suspect we’ve all spent time with that person who keeps looking over our shoulder, hoping for someone more interesting or important to talk with. It’s not just issues like politics that make some conversations difficult — it’s the fact that some people only want to talk, and never want to listen.

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    • That’s very true. Sometimes it’s not just arguments that can be problematic, it’s plain everyday conversation. True discussion only happens when someone is willing to listen, without interrupting or without making degrading expressions with their face. I think in those cases, it’s best just to not talk at all, rather than get caught up in either an argument or to keep talking to someone who is clearly not interested. Sometimes, all we can do is “move on.”

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  2. Well said! These days, we could all use a few lessons in creating safe spaces to have in-depth conversations. And we need to remember that disagreement isn’t a personal attack–it’s a great opportunity to see the world through some else’s eyes. Thank you, Ann.

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    • Thanks, Donna! I really believe that too. We’ve become conditioned to believe that disagreement is a personal attack, and to react accordingly. Which is why so many people will only talk to, and socialize with, people who believe exactly as they do. And what a waste of potential that is! I learn so much when I talk to people who are different, even if it’s just that there’s a good reason i don’t agree with them! But most often, what they say helps me understand why they believe the way they do, and then I’m much less inclined to judge them, or even fear them.

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    • I think it has contributed a great deal to our current problems. For one thing, it gives us a chance to hear opinions that disturb us, without having an real connection to the person who holds that opinion. So then it is easier to be threatened by it, and to lash out. And then there are all the posts that are created expressly for the purpose of stirring up division, and they are, sadly, very successful. Good communication often happens face-to-face, where we have to acknowledge that the “other” is a real live person, with feelings, hopes, fears, etc., just like us!

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  3. I found your post so interesting. I never was “political,” but have noticed that I don’t feel open-minded about “the other side.” I have a few friends and we just don’t discuss things.
    But this came to the forefront for me, Ann. I had lunch with a friend I’ve know 40 years – she has been dear to me. Her politics include believing the virus is a hoax. Imagine how shocked I was when I came from my car to where she was standing. We both had our masks on and were about to pick up take out food – she knew I would only eat outdoors and I had picked a park. Anyway, she reached over and gave me a big hug as I came toward her. I was frankly shocked. To me, this was a huge way of imposing her belief upon me. I recoiled and she apologized. I told her I had hardly hugged my own kids, that I have been very careful. Needless to say, although we “moved on from it” and had a nice visit – I am still upset when I think about it!

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    • I’m not political either, because I don’t care for conflict and I don’t have the ability to think that I always know what’s best for other people, which often seem to me to be two defining characteristics of those who love politics. But that’s my prejudice, and I have to work on it. But in any context, it is hard to stay open about the “other side,” I think, which is why we have to work at it. And respecting other people’s points of view is crucial to that. When your friend, who knows you believe the dangers of the Covid virus are real, gave you a hug, she not only put you at risk, she didn’t respect your views. She literally imposed her views on you. And of course that upset you!

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    • Dear Judy

      I agree the post is very interesting and refreshing. It takes much maturity to be able to express ones beliefs openly without bashing the other person over the head with them as it were.

      Your friend no doubt sincerely believes that in hugging you you won’t ‘get’ the virus. She will presumably have acted out of instinct- she has presumably hugged you before Covid 19 came on the scene, and you say she has been dear to you. You are naturally upset because you believe differently, but is she no longer dear to you? She apologised after all.

      Have you tried discussing her views, why she holds them? And does it have to be political? Why not just the truth or not?

      I have written about Covid 19 in detail on my site, including Covid 19 Summary recently.

      The virus is both real and a hoax, so if you want to know more why not have a look at what I have written. If you disagree with me I am always open to reasoning together.

      Kind regards

      Baldmichael Theresoluteprotector’sson

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      • That’s a good point. I had assumed the the friend who hugged her did it deliberately, because she didn’t think it was risky. But it could have been simply an impulsive move at seeing an old friend who she would normally hug. And she did apologize, and then the two of them had a nice lunch…which says good things about both Judy and her friend, I think!

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  4. I liked how you started the piece with a perfect beauty of an example to state your point, and I agree to the core. I do wonder, however, that the faculty of freely expressing and understanding the other’s viewpoint is en route to becoming a vestigial organ like the tail in humans.

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    • Thank you so much! And sadly, I agree, the ability to be open minded and tolerant of others does seem to be going the way of the human tail…. Some day, the human race may not even remember that it ever was possible to treat people who aren’t exactly like us with respect and kindness. Evolution seems to be going the wrong way in terms of our social skills.

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  5. Training oneself to be open-minded yet true to one’s convictions is a life-long process. I am glad you have a few friends that adhere to this all-important principle. When it comes to religion, one needs to be respectful. If one is in very strong disagreement, in my view it is then better to be silent or switch to another topic. I like your posts, Ann, because they also give me something to think about.

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    • Thanks for your kind words, Peter! And I agree, when it isn’t possible to be respectful of someone else’s views, or when you know they are unable to be respectful of yours, then it is best just not to talk about the topic at all. I have friends that I can talk to about absolutely anything, and but I also have friends with whom I know it’s best to avoid certain topics. But that’s okay, I still value their friendship in so many other ways!

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  6. great post Ann … we do learn more about ourselves and where our perspective comes from when we can enter into forthright discussions about those sensitive topics!

    It must one of the greatest gifts of all to feel ‘heard’ 🙂

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    • Thanks, Kate! It’s funny how many people don’t want to even try to discuss sensitive topics with those who believe differently. I know they’re afraid of being attacked (which is a legitimate fear), but when we do manage to have those conversations, we get so much good out of them! I think they’re worth the effort. And if it doesn’t go well, then we simply know that particular person isn’t one we can discuss that topic with, and so we don’t.

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      • well said Ann, I have had some of the most fascinating discussions about spirituality with those who come from a completely different place!

        And it’s taught me so much about my beliefs and how I got there. It’s challenging but promotes personal growth 🙂

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    • That is such a nice thing to say! Honestly, I don’t remember when I discovered your blog, but I do remember that I promptly followed it because I was so impressed by the depth and honesty in your writing. Sometimes I simply follow a blog because I think, “I want to hear more from this person,” and yours was one of those. Sadly, like you, I do think the art of nuance is declining, but all we can do is our best to keep it alive and well.

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    • Thank you! Wouldn’t it be great if we could all do that, all the time? I doubt very much we’ll ever get there, but I have hope that if some of us can manage to have open discussions with those who think differently at least some of the time, it will help us all. So I’ll keep trying! Thank you for your kind comment!

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    • Sadly, we can’t have an open dialogue with everyone, which is why it makes it even more special when we do manage to have an open, honest and respectful conversation with those who think differently from us. I think it would go a long way toward moving our society forward and healing the rifts. We’re so locked in the “I’m right and you’re an evil idiot” mentality that its crippling us all, I think. Politicians encourage that, because it helps them attain and keep power, and yes, Trump can be a perfect example of that mentality.

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    • Thanks, Ellen! I agree that safe spaces for good conversations about important topics are rare and becoming rarer. That’s actually what got me thinking about my old college friend, and how nice it was to discuss our religious beliefs even though they weren’t the same in some important ways. I think we need that more than ever now, which is why I’ll keep trying too! It’s not easy at all, but the results are so worth it.

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  7. I feel the same way. I like learning about another person’s perspective if the conversation is civil and balanced. Of course, therein is the catch. The difficulty isn’t what the person believes or why– but the way in which they communicate their message.

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    • Exactly! I don’t like conflict, so if someone lashes out at me, the conversation is over. If they do it too often, so is our relationship. But I do have some friends I can still talk to about anything at all, and that helps enormously. I also read books and blogs by those who are courageous enough to speak their own truth without putting others down, and I learn so much from them as well. That real connection is still there, just rarer and we have to look for it a bit harder. And I also have friends I value and yet avoid certain topics of conversation, because I know there are topics we can’t discuss without one, or both, of us feeling threatened. I’ve found that when an open discussion on a certain topic can’t happen, it’s best not to talk about it.

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  8. I am a 4th generation Christian Scientist. I was raised that way, and although my beliefs and practice have evolved over the years, it forms the basis of my world view. It can be hard to explain, people usually either have incorrect information about it or don’t know anything, and usually I just avoid the topic unless I am sure the person I am talking to is really going to listen. My husband was raised Lutheran but lost interest as a young adult. I am always grateful that he has always been respectful of my religion, allowed me to bring our children to Sunday School, sometimes even came to Church with me, and even seemed to be listening when I might be starting to nod off during services. I respected his need to provide medical services for the children if he felt that was appropriate. I am glad you had the opportunity to have meaningful discussions with your friend during college.

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    • I’m glad I had those discussions too! My friend was a very kind and very intelligent person, and I enjoyed our talks so much. They helped me understand her religious beliefs and the also showed me that we had a whole lot of common ground in both our religious beliefs and our world views. Sadly, she did suffer from those who weren’t willing to even try to understand her religion, as some people made snide remarks when she got a really bad sunburn and didn’t want to go to the college health clinic. People can be so intolerant, even of friends. I believe that if we really care about someone, we will respect their beliefs on such important topics like religion. I’m glad your husband respects yours, and you respect his. That’s a terrific example for your children, and I suspect they will grow up to be as open minded and kind as you two are. Thank you for your comment, it really added to this discussion!

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  9. Ann, this is a lovely piece and so very true. I don’t know when we lost our ability to listen, to be kind, to genuinely care about others, but we’re all poorer because we have. It seems to me that we’re supposed to learn from one another — nobody can learn everything in one lifetime! — and to guard each other’s feelings as if they were our own. Disagreements happen, but nastiness, finger-pointing, and name-calling don’t have to accompany them.

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    • Debbie, I just love the idea that we are “to guard each other’s feelings as if they were our own.” That is exactly what we need to do, and just think how much kinder our world we be if we all did that. And you’re right that we are meant to learn from each other, which means we need to be in conversation with, and even in relationship with, people who are different from us. Learning to disagree with love and respect is so important, and I truly hope we can get some of that back in our society. It is so desperately needed!

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  10. One of my best friends in high school had some different Biblical views than I held. We would discuss those views, kindly, and to this day we are good friends. She sharpened me and I pray that I did the same for her. I appreciate your words, Ann, and I sure wish more people today would discuss differences with love.

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    • Thanks for sharing that, Patty! I agree, when we can talk, kindly and respectfully, with those who believe a bit differently from us. Those discussions do make us examine our own beliefs and either alter them a bit, or make them even stronger. Which is a good thing, because beliefs that don’t stand up to close examination aren’t really the ones we want to have, I think. My guess is that your friend benefited from your talks just as much as you did!

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  11. Such a wonderful post for the current situation! You are so right…people need to talk to each other. They especially need to respect one another. I feel badly that mutual respect seems to out of favor right now for a great many people; respect is crucial for building relationships. You do not have to agree with someone.You do have to entertain the idea that someone might not feel exactly the way you do. And that is okay.

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    • Oh, exactly, Linda! We are so threatened by different beliefs these days, and that is not a good thing at all. For one thing, it’s arrogant and silly to think that we are right all the time, about everything. For another, we need to respect that other people have had different life experiences that have shaped their world views, and that it is only natural that they are going to have different opinions about some things. All this division is not a good thing at all….far better to learn to live peacefully with people who are different and to realize that we all “bring something to the table!”

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  12. I really enjoy having conversations with those whose ideas, lifestyles, and/or beliefs don’t line up with mine… as long as we both remain respectful. I have found though, that lately I avoid political discussions with “the other side.” No matter how calm we both remain, I just can’t find respect for their world view. I hope that after November (or, maybe January), we can all go back to some semblance of normality.

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    • I think it’s hard to respect views that you truly believe are wrong, so I understand what you mean. What helps me is to realize that not everyone who votes differently from me think the same way about everything. There is actually a huge diversity among the actual people in both political parties, and I also believe that even someone who has a political viewpoint that we can’t begin to accept can have other beliefs and attributes that we admire. That’s why I’m not a huge fan of labeling people, or in creating divisive titles like “red states” and “blue states.” I think the state I live in is always referred to as red, and yet most of the people I know who live here always vote Democrat. So what is the point in making those kind of sweeping generalizations? Sadly, I think that the divisions won’t go away anytime soon, because we’ve been too accepting of them. I really wish we could start concentrating on what unites us rather than what divides us, but when that will happen, I don’t know.

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  13. It is so beautifully written and expressed about the subject. I do think that along the way we stopped talking and try to understand each other. Though, it is always great to be able to talk to someone and be your true self, express your opinion without being judged or criticized.

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    • It really is, Svet! I think that’s why my friend and I enjoyed our talks so much, because both of us were able to express our true self with out fear of judgement or rejections. That’s a huge gift, and one that I wish we’d try to give each other more often. The world would be a much better place if we did!

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    • No, it isn’t, and I’m ashamed to say I don’t always accomplish it myself. But I figure if I just keep on trying, then at least I’m making some sort of progress! And honestly, saying that phrase is one of the things I learned from a friend, when we were talking about something we didn’t see eye to eye on. I realized that I didn’t feel the least bit attacked when she said “I disagree,” and I actually listened to what she said after that. Whereas if she had said, “You’re wrong!” my defenses would have been up, big time!

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  14. This post holds so much truth! It reminds me of a friend who was adamant that her children would not be allowed to read Harry Potter books because (in her mind) they promoted witchcraft. She was afraid that her children would pitch their upbringing instead of looking at it as an opportunity to discuss their beliefs and provide a safe challenge to their faith. It is so true that honest dialogue can provide the safe space to challenge our beliefs and solidify our ethical and moral stance…

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    • Thank you! I understand your friend’s impulse to shield her children from something she thought was wrong, but I agree that it would have been far better to let them read it and then simply talk to them about it afterwards. I don’t think that being exposed to different viewpoints is a bad thing at all, as it actually helps us to grow in understand of others and our own beliefs. I had no problem with my kids reading Harry Potter books (they loved them!), but I’ll admit that some of my son’s music choices when he was a teen gave me pause. So I just talked to him about my concerns and then let him draw his own conclusions. Because face it, we don’t raise our kids to simply be carbon copies of us. We teach them our morals, and then free them to form their own.

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  15. It’s takes a LOT of humility and less ego to truly have dialogue. I miss the days of mature dialogue. Despite the political choices and other movements in our midst, I always stand for kindness and respect. Those basic characters, coupled with true listening skills, truly keep a dialogue friendly and teachable. My core beliefs won’t change. But I’m an open-minded individual and love learning other aspects and thoughts. It expands my thinking~and sharpens my skills on being “agreeable with the disagreeable”. Well-written post! Thank you! Be blessed!

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  16. What a lovely post, Ann. The art of listening seems to have taken a back seat to a need to be right. I think most major conflicts occur because there is kernel of truth on both sides, grounded in personal experience. And the best way to get to that kernel is to approach differences with curiosity. ❤

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    • I couldn’t agree more! Most issues have more than one side to them, and there usually is at least a kernel of truth in opposing viewpoints. By recognizing them, we can at least stop thinking of the “other side” as a bunch of evil idiots. How much better to be curious about why someone feels the way they do?

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  17. Good points here, Ann. I have some in-laws, step-children, and 2nd & 3rd cousins, who love to dive-in the pool of the rub on all things political. At the same time, my wife enjoys the dinning table debates. Not me. I actually hate those times. My request for Thanksgiving is a gathering without throwing the turkey leg across the table during a heated argument from loved ones who would rather soak in political or religious rubs. When I see loved ones under my roof, I want to enjoy them. My friends often wonder why I am silent on social media concerning those battles. If someone asks me for my view, I will respectfully give it, but would rather divert topics. A one-on-one discussion would be far better than a verbal mob. I’m grateful you have good memories of those personal chats with your old friend. It’s the way it should be.

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    • Thanks, Alan! I think those personal chats are the way it should be too. Like you, I hate conflict and confrontation, especially about issues where people rarely change their minds. I have family members who regularly take swipes at each other on social media about their differing political stances, and I just don’t get it. We’re all family! Can’t we just accept that we don’t all vote the same way and yet still love each other? Why is that so hard? Ditto with religion. Everyone thinks his or her beliefs are absolutely the right ones….but that doesn’t mean we have the right to ridicule someone else’s. Personally, the God I believe in is big enough to handle a little diversity!

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  18. We listen best when we ditch the need to win others over to our opinion. So many times I catch myself formulating replies and marshalling arguments in my head even as the other person is speaking. By doing that, we miss what lies at the core of people’s actions and beliefs.

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    • You are so right! And I’m guilty of that far too often. Sometimes, I’m so intent on remembering what I want to say back to them that I really do quit listening to the other person altogether, and that’s inexcusable. A good conversation takes two people, and sometimes I manage to do it right, and sometimes I don’t….but all I can say is I’m going to try to do it right so much more often!

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  19. Timely post, Ann. Civil discussions of politics or religion seldom occur, these days. I feel that it is at least in part to everyone’s attempt to simply be heard over all the background noise. As I tried to tell my kids, there are many differing points of view on the same subject. Sometimes, we do not understand why people believe what they believe, but hitting them over the head with why they are wrong, will seldom change those beliefs. I was raised Christian Scientist, but as an adult was able to easily see those points I agreed with and those I did not. I kept the best and left the rest. Unfortunately, my parents died too young, because of their beliefs. That will tell you how much conviction they had. Stay well Ann. Allan

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    • Thank you for your comment, Alan! I think you’re right about some of the “yelling” being about peoples’ desire to simply be heard. And I think you were spot on in what you taught your children. If we want to change someone’s mind, we have to engage them in respectful discussion, and really listen to them. And even that doesn’t always work, but that’s okay. There is room for more than one way of looking at things in this world. I think the way you looked at the faith you were raised with works for most things: we need to discern what we agree with and what we don’t, then “keep the best and leave the rest.” (I did the same thing with my religious background.) I’m sorry about your parents, that must have been very hard.

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  20. It’s a sad time where people seem to have lost the ability for respectful conversations. It’s all black and white these days, no more grey zones in between (if that makes any sense).
    What you said about starting sentences with “I…” instead of using “you…” is a very good advice and helps especially in heated conversations. Learning to see other people’s points is essential in a civilised society, otherwise it’s chaos!

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  21. I really enjoy friendships where we respect each other enough to be ourselves, even when we don’t agree. Your post is a good reminder to listen and love without condition. The incivility worldwide these days is truly getting me down. Take care!

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    • It’s getting me down too, Brenda! Our election here in the US is just making it worse, because people get especially nasty then. Thank goodness for the kind of friendships where we are secure enough to just be ourselves, knowing that it is safe to do so!

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  22. Hi Ann – so well said. The method of talking these days is to immediately state your argument, then convince the other person they are wrong if they don’t agree. I wonder if and how that will change. I also have friends I can talk openly with, but with others, I avoid many subjects.

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    • That is the perfect description of the way so many people talk to each other these days! I hope it will change, but all we can do is try to model better behavior. I’m so grateful for the people I can talk to openly, about anything. With others, I tend to stick to subjects where we can have a nice conversation, and appreciate those friends for their other good qualities.

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  23. If you want someone to listen to you, you talk to them, not lecture/bully them. It’s such a simple concept which has been lost today as everyone thinks that intimidating people with their opinions means that they have put their point forward. It’d great that you’re one of the few people who still believes in civilised discussion and debate.

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    • Thank you! I will always believe in it. Because you’re right, we can silence someone, but that doesn’t mean we’ve changed their minds. We’re in the middle of a very close election in the US, and both sides actually thought they were going to cruise to victory….because most people rarely talk to anyone who believes differently these days. Therefore, they are all talking to people who planned to vote the same way that did, and are honestly surprised to discover that approximately 50% of their fellow Americans don’t agree with them!

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