Small changes make big differences.

Tuesdays with MOJO / A Loaded Conversation

Marjorie Spitz Rento2 Comments

I am sad.  Sad about the conversation around the recent school shooting in Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.

This is an apolitical forum, and whether you’re an extreme liberal, conservative or somewhere in the middle, your voice is welcome and safe here. 

Communication is the key to any successful relationship, organization, team or issue resolution. 

In business, for example, if management cannot communicate effectively with staff, and vice versa, it will not be a cohesive team and therefore success elusive. 

In my humble opinion, good communication is the golden key to a fulfilled life.

When Bob and I first met, we sometimes would totally misinterpret what each other said.  It certainly wasn’t on purpose – he had his experiences and I mine, and we brought that to the coupling.  It took us years and an objective party to help us create a common language that resulted in the amazing relationship we have now.  And the fine-tuning is never finished.  We all have to continually work on our communication skills, especially as technology takes over more and more of our daily lives.

The loaded conversation about guns is so highly charged and emotional, it’s difficult for those on either side of the spectrum (or even in the middle) to step out of it and have a rational and thoughtful conversation.

Full disclosure, I worked at a non-political gun violence prevention organization with a particular focus on school shootings for 10 years.  I saw first-hand the fall out these tragic events have not only on the families of those who die or are injured, but of the shooters, the survivors, and the community near and far.  It’s heartbreaking to see the tears and hear the “if only” of a parent, sibling or classmate who has lost someone to a preventable incident.  But that is not my point here. 

It seems any conversation about it quickly deteriorates to a playground fight.  For example, last weekend I was tooling around Facebook and saw a post from a High School friend.  This is not a person I’m close with, just someone I remember as being a nice guy, and who I wish a Facebook happy birthday to each year.

He posted an article whose message was unclear to me, and I innocuously started what I thought would be a friendly dialogue.   I typically avert hot topics on Facebook, but what could I tell you, I was feeling open minded and assumed it would be a respectful conversation.

I might as well have walked into a lion’s den.  People I didn’t know were on me like a fly on maple syrup. They were hostile and snarky and took the conversation from 0 to 1,000 in a flash.   

Seeing where it was going, I bowed out of the “discussion,” but how it unfolded really struck me.

According to an article I found on Google, there are seven major element of the communication process: (1) sender (2) ideas (3) encoding (4) communication channel (5) receiver (6) decoding and (7) feedback.

“Decoding” is where Bob and I fell short.  “Feedback” is where my Facebook interaction snarled the process.  If the feedback phase is met with hostility, the communication ultimately shuts down and nothing resolved.  It also just feels icky! 

So I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage you to sharpen your interpersonal communication skills.  Whether online or in person, can you listen better, be more thoughtful before responding, understand your audience well enough to create a safe environment for he/she to participate?  We all know how to push the buttons of those close to us.  Can you take a beat (and a breath) to slightly change the way you share your thoughts to avoid that zero to a thousand trajectory?

We often think we know how someone will respond to a thought, and move on before even giving him/her the chance to reply.  However, I’ve been surprised on more than one occasion at an answer when I make listening the priority.  Life is so busy and sometimes we can be so focused on what WE want to say that we aren’t fully open to what the person we’re interacting with is saying.  

Let’s change that.  Let's "unload" loaded topics.  Let’s make today “Conversation Respect Day.”  

When you hear a point of view that doesn’t align with yours, even it is uncomfortable, please go out of your way to hear it out respectfully and calmly.  Whether it about guns, or leaving the toilet seat up, who knows maybe you’ll find a resolution that has evaded you until now.  Oh, just imagine what we can resolve together!

With listening ears and an optimistic heart,

Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™