Re: Skillful Email Self-Expression
Dec 12, 1996 03:48 PM
by Tom Robertson
At 10:19 PM 12/12/96 +0000, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
>There are certain things we can learn from our early mistakes in
>1. Making a bold statement, call for action, or denunciation of
> something we don't like does not rally support behind us, nor
> does it lead people to change their ways and do things our
> way. It simply hardens positions and makes enemies for us.
This depends on whether or not the statement made was personal or
impersonal. That personal insults are destructive of discussion does not
mean that impersonal value judgments are also inappropriate.
> For example, if we support vegetarianism and find it both
> harmful and unhealthy to eat meat, we don't have to denounce
> people that still choose to eat meat, telling the world that
> they are wrong, selfish, greedy, evil, etc.
But those who support vegetarianism _can_ legitimately say that they think
it is better than eating meat, without calling meat-eaters names.
>2. We cannot assume to speak for other people as to their motives
> nor as to what they are trying to say. If we hear something
> we think sounds odd or wrong, we should ask the person to
> clarify their meaning and intent. As a general rule, we should
> accept their clarification, and not call them liars and insist
> our interpretation of their statements is more true than their
The phrase "as a general rule" has important implications of exceptions.
Once someone has demonstrated the intent to personally attack, there is no
further obligation to assume they are making a sincere attempt at honest
>4. We learn to appreciate that we have an audience of people.
> We're not driving a car, alone on the freeway, talking to
> ourselves about how horrid the other drivers are. We're not
> writing in a journal. We're communicating with people.
The lack of physical presence, so that no speaker's tone of voice is heard,
accounts for much of the difficulty in communication.
> Say we were to pick on a fundamentalist Christian approach,
> the politically correct movement, or the anti-government
> survivalist crowd. We'd step on some toes, making people mad,
> even if there were some element of truth in what we'd say.
> They'd be quick to respond to us that their central ideas are
> sacroscant, holy truths, and we are stupid, if not wilfully
> evil for profaning them. And we'd have a fight on our hands.
Theosophists worthy of the name can discuss such subjects without it
degenerating into a fight. In my association with Theosophists, I have
fairly unpopular political views, but, with one minor exception, I have
never experienced any ill will in our discussions of it. It is understood
by them that the spirit with which discussions are conducted is more
important than what is said.
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