To Speak or Not to Speak, That is the Question

14 Jan

When I was in graduate school studying to be a therapist, my cohort of thirteen had to learn some important lessons about when to speak and when to listen – not just when dealing with clients in therapy but when in the classroom with each other! As is typical, our group consisted of talkers and non-talkers. Some of us had an opinion about everything and made sure to blurt out every thought ad nauseam while the other half politely (or passively) kept their opinions to themselves and sat there saying very little.

Eventually, WW111 broke out. The quiet half of the class accused the talkers (yes, I was in the loud-mouth group) of being aggressive, pushy and egotistical. Stunned at this apparent assault on our character, we told the quiet group, if they had something to say, they needed to say it instead of sitting like lumps in their chairs waiting for someone to hand them the microphone.

Breathe. Of course our discourse was much more polite than what I infer above. What actually ensued was a painful but beautiful process of self-discovery for everyone in the group. All of us had to look at our habitual roles within groups and see our flaws. And we each had to make subtle adjustments to accommodate for the other and to take responsibility for our contributions to the well being of the group. I learned to listen more and to speak less. I learned to let other people speak first and to consider more carefully what I did say while friends of mine who were more reticent verbally gained authority when they elected to speak. Consequently, our group became close and we all became better therapists in the process.

The group continued to struggle at times, particularly in theory oriented classes where thoughts can fire at the rate of pop corn popping. To be mindful of this, we started using a Zen bell which was rung periodically. When the bell sounded, everything stopped and a moment of silence ensued and we learned to not be so damned attached to our opinions.

I mention this because the other day I posted a quote from Obama’s address at the Arizona memorial where he urged Americans to use speech that heals vs. wounds and to practice more tolerance with one another. Prior, I have purposely avoided any political rhetoric or opinions on FB because I’ve seen how ugly people can get with it and I have never wanted to elicit that type of heat through my modest social networking. But I didn’t view Obama’s words as “political.” I found them inspirational – words that were spoken by the talking head of our country to unite vs. divide at a time of national tragedy. It makes no difference what political party I belong to or who I voted for – I found these words meaningful. They echoed a message of peace. I could have chosen the quote below by the Dalai Lama or something from the Bible but Obama’s words were in front of me, so I posted them.

The ultimate irony is that a simple quote about using healing words and practicing kindness created mud slinging all in the name of free speech and having the right to an opinion.

FB for me is a nice way to connect mostly with friends, family and acquaintances. I don’t have a thousand people in my network and I try to be discerning regarding who I accept as friends. If I’m going to duke out my thoughts, opinions and values, I tend to do that through a medium that lets me express myself more fully than one-liners or that demands I have the courage to engage with someone in person where I can read facial expressions, body language and work towards increased understanding. That is relationship and intimacy. That is the point of communication.

Yesterday, I didn’t take the bait and argue over the comments that flew on my post. I didn’t express my offense and hash it out with the primary poster as I don’t even know the individual that well and would rather have a meaningful conversation with the person if I see him – yes – at church of all places. Sadly, religion doesn’t always result in the message of the gospel.

So I end this post with a quote that I find meaningful YET there is no political agenda behind it. Instead, I find the words intelligent and their message one of peace. Maybe in the future if I quote famous people, I won’t give their names but then that is plagiarism – something else rampant in this country but addressing that can be reserved for another blog post.

“In contemporary life, humility is more important than ever. The more successful we become, both as individuals and as a family, through our development of science and technology, the more essential it becomes to preserve humility. For the greater our material achievements, the more vulnerable we become to pride and arrogance.” Dalai Lama

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One Response to “To Speak or Not to Speak, That is the Question”

  1. ken January 31, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    Excellent quote by the Dali Lama Ken

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