Friday, October 10, 2008

thoughts on controversy

Chani asked about controversy, and if we shy away from it or gravitate toward it. Since Emily was pummelled this week for relaying information, and since I can't turn on the television without seeing a split screen of largely contrived controversy, it seems a timely question. Here are my thoughts.

I have this friend whom I rarely mention by name here, because she's not the my-life-is-an-open-book type. She is one of my all-time favorite people. Probably 80% of the posts that begin with "lately I've been thinking about ..." originated from talking with her. She is the kind of friend with whom a conversation will continue for weeks, sometimes months. She is one of the most interesting people I've ever met, and I see the world differently because I know her.

We almost never agree.

If you were to look at our lives on paper, you would be surprised that our paths ever crossed at all, much less that we have been friends as long as we have. We approach the world differently, and as a result almost always have different opinions.

But neither of us values being right over the relationship. Different is not worse or better - it's just different. It isn't my goal to convince her I'm right (most of the time). I'm more interested in the back and forth, in hearing a different perspective, in learning to really listen to another person. She pushes me to sift through what I really believe and why, to think through my own experiences and opinions. Sometimes she does change my mind, and sometimes I change hers, but it almost doesn't matter. The value is in the exchange.

So yes, Chani, to some degree I love controversy. I love to talk to people who don't think the same way I do. I love to hear a different perspective, and to understand how a person got to where they are in life. I love a genuine exchange of ideas. But I hate, hate, hate to argue.

If a person's goal is to ridicule, or "win," or to puff up his own ego, then I have no use for him. If a person uses the time when someone else is talking to plan their response, or harbors genuine disregard for someone else because they have a different opinion, I am not at all interested in having a conversation with him. I won't be someone else's soap box, and I don't tolerate watching such a scene as a third party very well, either. Hatefulness, sarcasm, and spite just make people angry, they don't ever change someone's mind.

I love controversy when I'm valued above my opinion. When I am not, I want no part of it.

How about you? How do you handle controversy?


thailandchani said...

That's an excellent distinction between discussing and arguing. I agree with all you say here. Respectful discussion is a good way to learn another point of view. Once someone invests his or her ego in the outcome, fur begins to fly and I lose interest.

Thanks for answering! :)


LMilky said...

great post.

how do I handle controversy... hmm? I'll be honest and admit that most controversies start with me needing a time out and having to "walk away." If I am not pushed or forced into being made to think or feel or do something I am not comfortable with then most controversies end alright... but... and I have said this before I have a HUGE flaw that has to do with trust... once bitten twice shy.

Jason said...

I try to make folks laugh when things get sticky ....maybe its a natural defense of some kind ....

Madame Rubies said...

I agree about vauling relationship over being right. That was a lesson I have only learned in the last few years of life. I commented to my friend, Leann, about the election and my lack of discussion of it that I see a lose/lose situation and I don't think it is worth losing friends over as well.