Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Viscous Circle (no, not vicious)

Yes, I know what a vicious circle is and I mean viscous circle. Here's what Eggcorn Forum has to say: " It’s bad enough when you’re caught in an endless loop—but you go nowhere even more slowly when the loop is sticky."

Seems to me that's what happens when we put our ideas out there in the blogosphere for consideration, people respond to those ideas in ways we didn't expect or want, we object and try to straighten them out, but they won't be straightened and get upset because we didn't appreciate their contributions, so we write a post that we won't let them respond to, but they do anyhow on another related post, so we write comments on their comments, expressing our distress at their misinterpretations, getting a little testy in the process, snapping a little bit at well-intentioned people who didn't get it, and we find ourselves in a viscous circle.

It's not a VICIOUS circle at all, though it has every possibility of becoming vicious out of sheer frustration. It's VISCOUS instead, because as we try to make progress and come out on the other side, we find ourselves bogged down in all the sticky ways human beings get bogged down when they try to communicate their ideas.

What are the viscosities that bog down human communication? Careless listening is one of them. Or, in the case of the written word as on a blog, careless reading. Careless writing/speaking is another. Human beings are apt to jump to all kinds of conclusions based on what they THINK they read or heard. After virtually every sermon I've preached, some dear soul has come to me and said, "I loved it when you said thus and so" and I am hard-pressed to remember just what I might have said that was implanted in their brain as "thus and so". We hear what we need or want to hear, not what the speaker/author said.

I have a poster on my wall which I refer to whenever I've been critiqued. It's intended to help me NOT be defensive or argumentative when people disagree with me, because that never does any good. Granted, it probably is best used in a one-on-one conversation, but I think it has connotations that work in the blogosphere.

1. Say thank you for the feedback.
2. Hear and restate the person's concerns.
3. Acknowledge the validity of the person's point of view.
4. Ask clarifying questions to increase your understanding of the point of view.
5. Express appreciation for the willingness of the person to give input and feedback.
6. Accept the point of view; be grateful for the lesson, whether you wanted it or not.
7. Don't respond out of your ego; respond out of your best self. Take the high road, don't strike back.

It's really hard to put ideas out for people to read and think about. It's really hard when they don't get it. It's really easy to get mad because they didn't get it. It's really easy to respond out of hurt over a misunderstanding. It's really important to assume the best, not the worst. It's really important to laugh, rather than flare up.

I agree with PeaceBang that we do this a lot in our congregations-----assuming we know more than the speaker, assuming it's our right to correct him or her, assuming that our assumptions are accurate and worthy of imposing on others. It's important to put an end to the viscous circle by responding out of our best selves, our selves that are able to laugh at our human foibles and not take things too personally.


LinguistFriend said...

This all seems too wise to require a comment, except that you do not seem to have been born yesterday.
In the blogger group, of course, that is not necessarily seen as a virtue, but it can be, if we have learned from it.

ms. kitty said...

Thank you, LinguistFriend.

kim said...

I used to have a list of things on the inside of my front door to read before going out. Prominent among the items was the words to a song:

Be Not Too Hard

Be not too hard for life is short
And nothing is given to man.
Be not too hard when he is sold or bought,
For he must manage as best he can.
Be not too hard when he blindly dies
Fighting for things he does not own.
Be not too hard when he tells lies
Or if his heart is sometimes like a stone.
Be not too hard for soon he'll die,
Often no wiser than he began.
Be not too hard for life is short
And nothing is given to man.
And nothing is given to man.

ms. kitty said...

Thank you, Kim. I like the song and what it says about human living.