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Friday, October 13, 2017

Elevating Debate in a Relationship

Written by  Janan Broadbent, Ph.D.

Whatever context you might imagine, it is hard to get away from the horrific after-effects of the Las Vegas massacre. This was not a crime of passion, or a bar brawl, or road rage. It was 100% premeditated, planned-in-cold-blood killing of human beings who were enjoying a musical performance. If you have read Scott Peck’s People of the Lie you may remember that the subtitle is: “The hope for healing human evil.” Although for this shooter the issue is moot, I cannot imagine just where you might even begin to address the evil pathology that must have existed there.

It is now the task for those left behind to deal with the grief, and the overwhelming need to take action to prevent such an atrocity. Those who claim this is not the time to discuss preventive action just don’t seem to want to look at the issue. Because when is it a good time to talk about this? Change does not come when human beings are comfortable and at ease. It follows painful times, occasions when people are upset and have the energy, the anxiety and the motivations to act.

How do we elevate the conflicful debate between our friends and families and in our relationships? How do we not sink into angry name-calling and insulting comments? I see a lot of this in social media. It is one thing when it is some anonymous person who you will never face, but it is another when it is a friend, or someone close to you. How do you keep the conversation civil and come to agree even if it is to disagree?

I think the first principle, the key, is to listen, not preparing your next response, but with an ear to what someone says. One does not need a degree in human behavior to be able to focus on another’s words. All you need is an open mind, which may sound easier said than done. We all have our own issues that may restrict empathy and close off parts of our consciousness to other ideas. But the process of growing up, maturing into a responsible adult requires that we listen to ourselves first and decipher why we may feel or think a certain way. Then we can have greater receptivity to other people’s communications.

Take time to be with your loved ones. Listen to what they say and do. Be alert to any unusual behaviors they may show. And by all means, take care of yourself and deal with issues that may upset you. We all need each other at one time or another.

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