Stop and listen first…

October 25, 2022

A couple of quotes that I’ve saved seem to go together to make a good point about listening.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  (Stephen Covey)

“The simple act of paying attention can take you a long way.” (Keanu Reeves)

Today’s politicians in both major parties seem to have gone beyond Covey’s observation. They not only are not listening to each other’s point of view or concerns but are also not waiting to reply. They are just trying to shout each other down.

The seemingly lost art of compromise requires that both sides listen and try to understand the differences that exist and then try to find a way to satisfy at least some of the concerns of the other side. One must first listen and then try to understand before replying or working towards a compromise.

Covey’s point in particular points out the issue that ego brings into the picture. It starts with the thought “I am right, and I need for you to see and admit that”. That is the impetus behind the intent to reply. If we start instead from the position “I hadn’t considered that point of view before, let me think about that”, it might allow us to have a civil discourse that could lead to compromise.

If your immediate reaction is “Why should I consider the other persons point of view? It is obviously wrong”; then stop and realize that you are a part of the problem and not the solution. Take Reeves advice and pay attention, not to reply but in order to understand.

Some points of view that you may encounter are so alien to your own way of thinking that it is easy to dismiss them as crackpot or too extreme. The task then is not so much to understand the point of view (that may be impossible) but, rather, to understand what is motivating or driving that point of view.

If you pay attention, you may find that fear is the key driver in many, if not all, very extreme points of view. Fear of loss of power, money or control. Fear of the unknown or misunderstood. Fear drives bigotry. Fear drives homophobia. Fear drives misogyny. Fear drives misinformation and conspiracy theories. The anger that you may encounter is just a reaction to those fears.

Trying to understand what the person with whom you are talking is afraid of changes the dynamics of the conversation and allows a path to compromise by allaying those fears. If one starts from the position of “what would it take to lessen your fears and make you more comfortable with this situation or person?”, you are at least on the path towards compromise. You can find that path if you pay attention and listen to understand rather than to reply.

Some of the best listeners that I’ve encountered also make the best conversationists. Conversations with them are satisfying and rewarding because they listen and explore your comments with questions or remarks that bring out more from you. They seem to be more interested in what you will say next than in what they will say next. Somehow that makes what they will say next all the more interesting.

So, take the advice of our quotes today and pay attention. Listen not to reply but to understand. Reply with a question, not a retort. Consider that there may be alternatives to your current point of view.  Understand the underlying fears that may be motivating the other person. Look for the path to a possible compromise.

Stop and listen first.

How are things turning out for you?

February 24, 2022

Life is a continuous process of discovery and our reactions to those discoveries. A quote from legendary basketball coach, John Wooden seems to be the most appropriate way to react to the twists and turns of life.

“Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.”

Railing against things that have already happened or denying them is a gigantic waste of time and changes nothing. Rather, spending your time internalizing recent events and making necessary corrections in your life to move forward seems a much better course of action.

In today’s post to his Blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote from Jane Goodall –

“Lasting change is a series of compromises.  And compromise is all right, as long as your values don’t change.”

So perhaps we could combine the two thoughts and surmise that things work out best for those who are able to compromise and go on with life. But, what about that “values” part of Goodall’s quote. What if it is your “values” for which you need to seek compromise?

There is no generally applicable set of universal values or core beliefs in almost any society today. That is because most modern societies are not made up of people all from the same ethnic, religious or geopolitical backgrounds. The diversity of the population that brings strength to modern societies also dilutes the “values” of any one group. This results in the need for compromise even in the values upon which judgements are being made. If in no other way, it forces us to consider that someone else may have a completely different point of view on what is right and wrong in any given situation, based upon a different set of core values.

At the root of many of today’s seemingly intractable issues, such as LBGTQI rights, abortion and the role of government in our lives are differing sets of values which make compromise seem difficult. When you spend time trying to think about issues like that, you may quickly arrive at the correct conclusion that how you act or react to those issues is your decision and your decision alone. What “everybody knows” or “everyone says” has no real bearing. It is your personal responsibility to decide how you will act or react to the situation. That forces you to examine what you think are your “core values”.

If you are honest with yourself in that evaluation of your values, you may realize that there is not a value at the core of some of your actions/reactions at all; but, rather, that fear is the driving force in your decisions. Even ignorance in any situation leads to fear of the unknown as the driver for reactions.

The step after becoming more aware of what values (if any) are controlling your action is to examine whether compromise may be needed. That is really the reaction that Wooden was alluding to in his quote – making the best of how things turned out. Every fear-driven, knee-jerk reaction is just a “jerk” reaction. You need to stop and think before acting or reacting.

Maybe if you stop and at least think, “I have the power to control how I react to this”, it will force a better response. At a minimum, you will have avoided a knee-jerk reaction and at best you will react based upon your values rather than your fears. If it still doesn’t turn out for you, maybe then is the time to reexamine your “values” and perhaps seek a compromise.

How are things tuning out for you? Who decides? Perhaps one last quote will put you in the right frame of mind to answer that question –

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” (Alice Walker)

You have the power to decide how things turn out for you. Use your power.

Being silent on things that matter…

January 18, 2022

It is the day after Martin Luther King, Jr day and for many that means time to forget and move on with life. Yet King’s words in this quote still resonate today – “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

There was much consternation and condemnation of some Republican politicians who used King’s words in Tweets or other pronouncements yesterday, while at the same time voting against the voting rights act now before the Senate. Yet not all Republican Senators may be against strengthening voting rights in the face of some changes in voting laws in several states – they just chose to stay silent on the matter. Remember them.

I have a yard sign that I put out in the summer months that has this quote from Dr. King – “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” While the quote does not specifically say anything about political lives, perhaps it should. A politician who is so consumed with remaining in power that he/she will compromise their integrity and the trust that was placed in them by not taking a stand on this issue should see their political lives end. Remember them.

I am not solely advocating for the current wording on this bill, but for the ability of all politicians to seek compromise in order to further the intent of the bill – that all people be allowed to vote. We do not see that in today’s political environment, where the two sides dig in to hardened positions on most issues and lob insults at each other. These are people who choose to fight rather than to seek compromise and they are on both sides of the aisle. Remember them.

I think the important message to get across to members of both parties is that we chose them to create laws in the best interest of all of the people and not to adhere to the extreme positions of radicals on either side. If they are unable to stand up to the pressures of extremists within their own parties, then they are unable to put our collective interests before their own. Remember them.

It is telling that efforts by the leadership of either group in Congress towards compromise for the common good are attacked by extremists members of their own party. It is also telling that those attacks most often result in the gesture towards compromise being withdrawn and positions are allowed to harden into stalemates. Remember them.

We have the opportunity to change all of this when we vote on the serving members of Congress. We have an obligation to look at the performance of the people running for reelection from both parties and determine what their position on important events has been and whether or not they made those positions known or decided to stay silent on things that mattered. Remember them.

There needs to be a new middle ground…

July 9, 2018

In today’s post to Jack’s Winning Words, Jack used this quote – “Divide and rule is a sound motto.  Unite and lead is a better one.”  (Goethe)

Goethe’s words certainly offer a better solution than continuing down the destructive path of divisive politics that our country is currently on. What’s missing is someone charismatic enough to unite the country around a new direction and provide that leadership. I don’t see that person coming from either current political camp. Both Republicans and Democrats seem intent on solidifying their opposing positions and purging their ranks pf any who would dare to compromise with the other side. By focusing upon political purity they have silenced the moderates in either party who used to be able to work together for the common good of America.

Recall the words of the Stealer Wheel song – Stuck in the Middle with Youclown car

Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you

Perhaps that’s where we all are right now, with clowns to the left and jokers to the right.

It is well past time for a new, third party, positioned in the middle, to emerge from this political melee. There will always be those who gravitate towards the extreme right or left positions, but they need not hold the rest of the country hostage to their ideologies. Instead of the anarchist approach of  “get the government out of everything”; or the “government knows best on everything” approaches of the two current parties, a platform based upon compassion, fairness, fiscal constraint and inclusiveness for all politiciaN SPEAKINGneeds to be championed by a leader who can inspire people to rally around the cause of a better America for all. Right now I don’t see that leader within the current political environment; he he/she is out there somewhere.

While it would seem to be a very uphill battle to start an entirely new political party, I just don’t see the willingness within either of the existing parties to embrace enough change in their current positions to be able to occupy the middle ground.  Perhaps that is just a leadership issue within both parties. Forming a new party would allow for the discarding of old positions and political baggage. There has already been one example of the ability of a single charismatic person to rally enough support to create a new movement and a new party – witness Ross Perot and his Reform Party of The United State of America. While that effort ultimately failed, it did prove that someone with enough financial backing and a strong message could make a significant dent in the American Political scene. Imagine the change that could occur if a really strong leader with the right message were to rally America towards the political center.

There will always be those who gravitate to the extremes on either political side and theydisagreement2 will not go away, but both extreme would be marginalized into the disgruntled little camps that they deserve to be, if there was a strong alternative in the middle providing the leadership needed to get things done for America. I suspect that a good number of politicians, who now swallow their pride and compromise their own values in order to cow tow to the litmus tests of their parties, would break ranks and switch a strong and sensible middle party.

What can we as ordinary citizens do? One thing is to stop supporting the extremes from either party and start finding (and voting for) better people to represent us. Start making noise for things, instead of just against things. Start running for offices ourselves, if we don’t see those that we can support running. Start doing and not just complaining. There needs to be a new middle ground and that starts with all of us who are already there. Let’s find that new leader to rally around.

Have a great week ahead.

Don’t just talk…DO!

June 28, 2018

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes today’s inspirational quote – “It’s a common delusion that we make things better by talking about them.”  (Dame Rose Macaulay)

It seems that we’re seeing a lot of talking about things lately, but very little doing something about them. That’s especially true in politics these days, where talking aboutdebaters things seems to be the only thing that the politicians can actually accomplish. The two sides of our political system have become so polarized that here is no room for getting together to work out a compromise, so all that is left is calling news conferences and slinging accusations and mud at the other side.

I’m not sure if it is hate or fear that is really behind the polarization that has taken place, but it sure isn’t the “Love thy neighbor” that Jesus espoused. Perhaps another saying from a recent post to Jack’s blog holds the secret to resolving the mess that we find ourselves in –

“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding, I want the understanding that bringeth peace.”  (Helen Keller)

There is currently little effort made towards understand on either side of the political divide, so very little actually is done. Understanding does take effort and a willingness to try to see a different point of view. Reaching compromises and getting things done happy greetingcannot be accomplished by hurling sound-bites at each other from behind the hardened barriers of ignorance, mistrust, hate, prejudice and bigotry. There must be a willingness on both sides to drop the shields and seek common ground by understanding the motivation for differing views. I hope that out of that understanding will come peace, compromise and actions to get things done. One can only hope.

Have a great rest of your week. Don’t just talk…DO!


Choose to be kind this week…

March 5, 2018

“Choose to be kind over being right every time.”  (Richard Carlson)

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write about the Mr. Know-it-all syndrome that some people exhibit. Unfortunately, that hits too close to home for me, as my wife often calls me out on.  I really have to work on not jumping in to arrogantcorrect some factual error (at least in my opinion) that I think may have just been made in something that is said. Sometimes (probably most of the time) it is better to just let things go, even if you know that what was just said is not correct. Be kind this week.

One way to look at things is to just say to yourself that what was just said is what the person who said it believes and messing around with beliefs is usually a losing cause. Perhaps it was their opinion about something; and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It is surely a mistake to jump in with a correction on anything that may be political or religious, since those are two areas that are very personal and difficult to argue. Just say to yourself, “I don’t agree with your opinion or judge thingsview on things, but that’s OK.” Don’t say that out loud, unless you are just spoiling for an argument. Be kind this week.

Rather than trying to assert the “right” (from your perspective) opinion into the conversation, be kind and try to understand the other person’s point of view or at least honor his/her right to that opinion. One can be kind without being condescending and one can be kind without surrendering their own position or opinion. Be kind this week.

Another good trait to develop is being able to admit when you were, in fact, wrong on some opinion or “fact” that you held a strong belief about. Sometimes additional information or event prove the position that you held to be wrong and rather than cling stubbornstubbornly to a disproved position, it is much better to admit your mistake and move on by embracing the new “truth” of the matter. Perhaps now you will be better able to understand the position that others held all along, which you considered “wrong-headed” until now. You will probably also realize that, had you chosen to be kind rather than right in your position, you would now be in a much better position. Be kind this week.

So, choose to greet others ready to accept and understand, rather than ready to correct. Try to understand things from their perspective rather than forcing them to see it from disagreement2yours.  Maybe there is no right and wrong, just two wrongs that will get you nowhere. Life does not have to become as dysfunctional as our current political system, where everything is judged using a far-right or far-left litmus test. There is a win-win middle ground were different opinions and perspectives may be valued for providing diversity to the conversation and where the truth is somewhere in the middle or, perhaps, somewhere else altogether. Be kind this week.

When you hear someone say something that you would normally try to correct; rather than blurt out, “You’re wrong”, try “How interesting of you to say that”, or perhaps reply, “I hadn’t thought of that view of things.” You may be pleasantly surprised at the conversations that follow. Be kind this week.

It takes a strong man to urge compromise in the face of gridlock

May 12, 2015

I usually tune out most car ads, unless they are really catchy. The recent Cadillac ad caught my attention, but not in a good way. The current Cadillac ad uses the tag line, “It’s a weak man who urges compromise.” I think I understand what they were going for there – they’re talking really about not compromising on the car features or design; but, it doesn’t necessarily come across that way.

As it sounds on TV, the ad is actually offensive to anyone who sees compromise as the best way to get out of the current arguinggridlock that has governments and state and national levels effectively stalled. It is the weakness of being unable to compromise that has caused the great divide between the parties at all levels. It takes strength and conviction to do the right things sometimes. Those are character traits that are obviously lacking in our Michigan State government and which have been lacking at the Federal level for years.

In life there are seldom situations where some level of compromise is not required by some or all of the parties involved. As soon as the number of people involved reaches two or more there will be differences of interpretation or opinion on almost any topic. Some people like to hide behind words like “truth” or “facts” to defend their interpretation of things; but facts and truths are perceptions of reality and each person has their own perception of the world around them. What you present as a “fact” or as being undeniably “true”, I mightthe truth perceive as being a distortion of what I see in the same event. Just ask the various groups involved in the recent spate of police shootings what the facts are and the truth about those events. See what different realities there are in their answers.

So, if there are different perceptions of reality driving the decisions that are being made all of the time, how does anything get done?  Through compromise by all parties involved. I can’t see things the way that you do and you don’t know where I’m coming from; but perhaps if I give a little and you give a little we can reach a middle ground and get things done. If both of us refuse to take that step towards each other’s perceptions of things, gridlock occurs. That’s where both Lansing and Washington are at right now – a refusal by the politicians to move towards the middle in order to find enough common ground to get anything done.

At both the state and national levels the root problem is the same. For the most part, the people who are there are professional politicians and professional politicians are more concerned about getting reelected than about getting things done. Getting reelected means spending big money. The businessmen behind the scenes, who control the money, control the politicians by doling out the money; and, for the most part, doing nothing is what they would prefer. On occasion they may have their politicians go fight a war somewhere, if their business interests are at risk; but, the rest of the time gridlock works in their best interest by keeping the government from interfering too much in their business world. Let the common people grumble; just keep the politicians fat, dumb and happily running for reelection and all will be fine.

I recall the days when there was a spirit of compromise in Washington – the days when there were moderates in both parties who could reach across the aisle and forge solutions out of compromise. Those were the days before the litmus handshake2tests that all candidates must now pass to convince those in their party’s so-called “base” that they are conservative enough or liberal enough to deserve some of the support and money that will allow them to be elected (reelected).  There is no longer a place for a moderate Republican or for a conservative Democrat, so there is no longer a place for compromise. It’s sad, really; but eventually the pendulum will swing back towards the middle. That may not happen in my lifetime; but hopefully it will happen before the current political gridlock permanently and irrecoverably damages America. Wouldn’t it be sad to join the other nations that once had great power and respect around the world, only to be done in by their own inability to change with the times? It takes a strong nation to urge compromise sometimes. I hope that we still have that strength.

Where did compromise go?

July 18, 2014

“Lasting change is a series of compromises.  And compromise is all right, as long as your values don’t change.”  (Jane Goodall) as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I suppose you could restate the second half of this quote a bit as “And compromise is all right, as long as you don’t compromise your values.”  Unfortunately in what passes for our political process lately the politicians both locally and at the national level have lost the ability to compromise and have become rigid in the mistaken belief that the only way to prevent compromising their values is to just say “no” to everything.

I observed the supporters of one local candidate marching in our recent Independence Day Parade, with signs and handouts that basically said no to just about everything – no to providing access to health thumbs downcare, no to any form of birth control, no to any taxes, no to most laws no, No NO. The only thing they seemed to be for was the right to have guns. Their message boiled down to “give us our guns, get out of our way and we’ll take care of ourselves.” There seemed to be little room for any compromise on anything in their message. It seemed to me to point to a desire for armed anarchy.

I am old enough to recall a time when politicians were able to find a way to govern by finding a way to compromise on big, important issues. Neither side was forced to change their values; so, as a result the laws that they passed often reflected the compromises that were required. There were always protests from the extreme fringe groups of both parties; but, logic and a sense of duty to get things done on behalf of the people prevailed. These days the fringe groups seem to rule the parties arguingand quite often nothing gets done. That appears to be the strategy of many – to them doing nothing or preventing everything is preferable to any compromise.

I suppose it’s our own fault as a constituency that we have allowed the political process to be taken over by minority extremist groups. The ambivalence of the great majority of citizens has allowed the only people who have passion (however misplaced it may be) for their views to gain control. The result at primary or election time is often a choice between the lesser of two or more evils, with most candidates trying to “out extreme” each other in their positions on issues. A by-product is often nasty, negative campaigning even within the two parties.

I’ve espoused this before, but it’s time to say it again – we need a viable third party alternative. We need a party in the center, a party that is not dedicated to the extremes of either conservatism or liberalism – a party willing to compromise to get things done. Maybe they could call it the Common Sense Party (CSP), since that is a political space that is currently not being occupied by the two existing parties. There seems to be a role for government somewhere between the “let me do it all for you” and the “let’s do nothing” extreme poles. Somewhere between “rules for everything” and “no rules at all” is a happy medium ground where the needs of the individual and the needs of the society are both served well.

Will the CSP ever come to be? Maybe not, but perhaps the voting public will tire of having to choosedumb and dumber between Dumb and Dumber and having to put up with the misinformation and attack ads that are used to try to influence our votes. There is hope on the horizon in the form of the changing demographics of the U.S. population. As the population grows and becomes more and more diverse the minorities at both ends of the political spectrum will become smaller and smaller. Maybe, just maybe, there will be enough honest people with common sense who will be willing to crawl through the slime of our political process to get elected and bring some sense of compromise back into the process of governing. One can only hope.

Only you can make it all right…

July 3, 2014

“Everything will be all right in the end.  If it’s not all right, it’s not the end.”  (From The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel–British Film), as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I like that line from the movie because underlying it is the thought to never give up, never quit, never reach the end until things are all right – until you have reached whatever goal that you had for that situation. That doesn’t necessarily always have to be a win; it just has to be an outcome that you are happy or satisfied with at the time.

In recent World Cup matches, playing to a tie, scoreless or otherwise in some matches was all right – the team still advanced in many of those cases. In life coming to a point in which neither side has to feel a loss is all right, too. Sometimes that is a win-win situation, where both sides feel like they scored a win in the deal (which is what we strive for in the real estate business); and sometimes it’s just deciding to quit while neither side is “ahead” and declaring a truce on whatever issue was driving the battle (a good strategy in marriage many time).

angry coupleThe alternative to accepting a tie or achieving a win-win is the dark side of this little saying. That occurs when people focus on an end-game that requires revenge. Seeking revenge means that the game can never be over, since one side or the other will be put in the position of having to get even again. That is a no-win game that should be avoided. For some people it is hard to find a way to stop that cycle, to call a truce and abandon the revenge game. For them, that would feel like a loss, which of course they have been fighting to avoid. For most, perhaps it involves embracing the concept of forgiveness. Here’s a good quote that I found about that –

 “Forgiving isn’t something you do for someone else. It’s something you do for yourself. It’s saying, ‘You’re not important enough to have a stranglehold on me.’ It’s saying, ‘You don’t get to trap me in the past. I am worthy of a future.”  ― Jodi Picoult, The Storyteller

If you think about that little quote, it is allowing you declare a win to yourself while reaching a draw caringon whatever issue has been driving the relationship between you and the other party. You have forgiven them for whatever you believe they did or whatever position they have taken. Boy, will that frost their patootie. Now, in order to get revenge they’ll have to forgive you, too. Maybe you can have a contest now to see who is the most forgiving of the other. All right then, it’s not the end until everything all right.

Getting back on the plus-side of life; there are things in life that will never be all right – homelessness, hunger, abuse, discrimination and more; so, there will always be things that you can continue to work on making right. You can join the efforts in service with other volunteers to deal with those issues and always have something to keep you busy. At the end of each day you will have a reason to get up the next day and continue the battle, because it’s not all right yet, so it’s not over.

Maybe you can’t tackle world hunger or homelessness or abuse and bullying, but you can do something about them where you live and wrestling them down to zero in your town or village or city will feel like a major win. All you have to do is look around you and see the things that aren’t right and then start doing something about them. Start today. Start on your block and work your way out from there.

Remember that it’s not over yet because everything is not all right. You can make the difference.