It’s been almost 20 years since Deborah Tannen, PhD, told us in “the Argument Culture” that our world assumes the best way to discuss an idea is to set up a debate. Our news presents the most extreme, polarized views as “both sides”. We settle disputes by litigation and begin an essay by criticizing. War metaphors pervade our speech and shape our thinking. Everything is framed as a game, a conflict or battIe. And, unfortunately, since I found the book, about 8 years ago, it’s gotten worse.
We are engaged, in the grandest jockeying for political power and influence our world has ever seen. The negative, flippant way our leaders communicate about groups of people around the world make me think of how trivial human life seems to have become and how far away from positive change that puts us.
My name is Lou Kraus. I got the idea for Better Outcomes about a decade ago, when I was directed to Rabbi Yisroel Meyer Kagan’s writing about 31 commandments from the Old Testament. In his discourse on Evil Speech, his book, “Chofetz Chaim” (He Who Desires Life), points out that he considered negative conversation the cause of much of the evil in the world.
In 2005, I was the moderator of the Maple Heights, Ohio’s, Chamber of Commerce’s Candidates’ Night. As the Moderator, instead of just asking questions, I chose to use standard Mediation Guidelines, I had learned in various seminars. The material permitted me to assist the candidates in addressing each other civilly, to keep order and to make sure the audience got complete, understandable answers to the questions they asked.
I am proud to announce the most recent addition to Better Outcomes, Marshall Rosenberg, Phd’s “Nonviolent Communication”. As I read, I was amazed at the beautiful understanding of our humanness I found. This passage, which he wrote on September 27, 2001 after the 911 attacks is a nice example.
“Our work is designed to help people learn to empathize with one another’s needs and concerns, and begin to see that the “other side” is simply a group of humans trying to protect themselves and meet their needs. We have seen hatred and desire for punishment transformed into hope—when people received empathy from those who had killed their families. We have seen those who committed the violence sincerely mourn—when they received empathy from those who had been violated by their actions. We have seen people on both sides lose the desire to punish each other—and then work together to ensure that everyone’s needs are met. We have seen former enemies create programs together to make up for the harm they created and ensure the safety of future generations.”
If there is an answer to the enormous problem before us, it is to seek solutions that will meet the needs of all concerned. This is not utopian idealism. I have seen such solutions created—over and over again—around the world)
For now, Better Outcomes is complete. Our “Ten Steps to Speaking More Nicely” contain guidelines from Rabbi Kagan’s work that can not only make our lives less negative, but, also remind us that, sometimes, it is necessary to use Evil Speech, to protect others from the harm words can cause. (#10)
The vast instantaneous reach of technology; the Internet, TV, Radio and cell phones and with the growth of our population and occupied land, the level of negativity is much worse. We are particularly concerned about politicians. They have a tremendous influence over our lives, and can create a tremendous amount of good, but they are also in a position to create tremendous damage, if they are not careful about how they speak.
Athletes, movie stars and the media don’t have the same power, but they are heroes to many of us and have a substantial amount of influence. I wonder, if they understand that the influence they have on their customers.
Our Candidate events which can be staged for Conversations, Interviews and Town Hall meetings, educate people about the tricks used to get their vote and we can demonstrate that civil discourse is possible in the public arena.
We are available. Let us show you the tricks politicians use when trying to manipulate you to get your vote.
Please help us spread the word.
“Marshall Rosenberg (October 6, 1934 – February 7, 2015) was an American psychologist, mediator, author and teacher. Starting in the early 1960's he developed Nonviolent Communication, a process for supporting partnership and resolving conflict within people, in relationships, and in society. He worked worldwide as a peacemaker and founded the Center for Nonviolent Communication,  an international non-profit organization  for which he served as Director of Educational Services.” (Wikipedia)