I’ve talked about the awkward, self-filtering way I tend to approach “hot topic” issues in my day-to-day interactions and how I believe this stems from the vicious manner these issues are debated online. No one wants to be their most forthcoming when they are afraid of explosive anger, personal attacks, or even death threats! However, I have also acknowledged that this probably isn’t an accurate expectation to have of those I associate with on a daily basis. Just as I know that I can still value their friendship even if they have different perspectives then me, I should be able to trust that they can feel the same towards me.
Signals of Prejudice)
However, even if we manage to separate our expectations of the real world from the virtual, we still need to learn how to speak in a way that fosters positive communication. There are certain terms which I have noticed are likely to set people with the opposite opinions immediately on edge. They are things that signify to the other person that you are prejudiced against them, and that is sure to make their interaction with you that much less sincere and constructive.
So, for example, if you are more liberal, and you start throwing out “phobic” terms, such as “transphobe” or “homophobe,” then you are immediately downgrading the conversation. These terms are almost always applied incorrectly. “Phobic” is a suffix that means a person has an irrational, panic-stricken fear of something. There might very well be people who have a panicked reaction when in the presence of a homosexual or transgender person, but I think we all know that this is virtually never the case when this term is applied. It is a stamp put on anyone who is disagrees with liberal movements for any reason at all.
On the other side, some of the more conservative voices have started overusing the term “groomer.” This, of course, is a term that accuses another person of intentionally sexualizing minors so that they may become victims of abuse. This is an extremely serious claim, and it ought to be wielded with an equally serious mindset. Sadly, as with the “phobic” terms being applied to those on the right, “groomer” is starting to be thrown against everyone who happens to have a liberal attitude.
If you use either of these terms thoughtlessly, you are signaling to the other side that you have a reductive view of other people. You are telling them that you will lump anyone that feels differently with you into the most extreme and sinister categories so that you may dismiss them without any real consideration. And maybe that’s not what you meant to communicate at all. Maybe you were just imitating the vernacular that you’ve been taught without realizing how it is likely to be received. If this the case, then you ought to take some time to consider whether you are subconsciously discounting the other person without even hearing what it is they are trying to say. Frankly, we all do this to some extent, so there isn’t any shame in realizing that we have made this mistake and then correcting ourselves.
Though, on the other hand, perhaps you really do mean to categorize the entire side as pure evil. Perhaps you think that anyone who is on the other side of the aisle is not merely confused or misguided. Perhaps you don’t think they have any good points to share, or that they are trying to gain attention for an issue you might have overlooked. Perhaps you genuinely believe that they are all monsters that only seek to harm our society, and that they are past reclamation, and thus you have no intention of having a civil discourse with them. But if you’ve taken the time to read this series of posts to this point, I imagine that that is not the case for you. If you care at all about the trouble we have in communication, like I do, then that would suggest that you hope it could get better. And if you hope it could get better, then that would mean that there are good people on both sides who can approach these heavy conversations with decency and composure if we just start to foster that sort of attitude.
I certainly think that this is the case. And if it isn’t, then the world is much worse off than I realized and horrible things are inevitable!