On Uncommon Ground: Communicating with Real People, Part 1

Nobody talks anymore. Yeah, we throw words around and make a lot of noise, but we don’t actually communicate. We used to. We used to listen to each other. We used to ask how someone was doing looking for an honest answer. But those days are gone. We don’t talk with each other anymore, we talk at each other. And there’s a huge difference between the two. It’s that simple prepositional difference that has led us to our current social and political situation. We can’t hear what anybody is saying and we comment in all caps, even though we are still decades away from our AARP memberships. Yes, friends, this is where we are today.

“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT STRUGGLE IS!!! WE DIDN’T HAVE THE WIFI IN MY DAY!!! IF WANTED THE INTERNET WE HAD TO SPLICE OUT THE HERT OF A SENTIENT ROBOT AND SHOVE IT SCREAMING THROUGH A MODEM!!”

 

So, let’s all take a few steps back and try again. We have a lot of progress still to make and the only way that happens is with some civil conversation and some core understanding.

Perception is reality. Now, before you litter the comment section with long-winded diatribes on semantics, I’m talking about our personal realities here. My reality and your reality, not The Reality. It all boils down to our own unique points of view. I live in my bubble and you live in yours. Sometimes we bump together in conflict, sometimes we join together for a common cause, and sometimes we float beyond the edges of Reality on unicorns made of glitter and regret. Bubbles are weird like that. If you are okay living in your tiny little bubble, then stop here and return to your usual programming. I may disrupt the tension holding you together.

“Oh, sh-!”

 

It’s time to get uncomfortable. Throw out that tripe about walking a mile in some hobo’s loafers and get real. That’s how you get blisters on your way to hell for stealing a homeless man’s footwear, you heartless monster. I’m asking you to actually experience something outside of your comfort zone just to push your own boundaries. Take the bus for once in your pampered life. Learn another language. Attempt to live off of $50 for a week. Shave your head. I don’t care. I just want to see you grow. I want to see all of us grow. And growth is complicated and messy and difficult, just like your ex.

“You always have to make everything about you!” 
“I’m just saying, Jane. It’s uterUS. Not uterYOU.”

 

You’re only the hero in your own story. You aren’t the champion of the people. You aren’t going to grow up through hardship and oppression to realize a great destiny, because I am. This is my story. You have your own. Go achieve your own coda, sidekick. Every one of us is walking through our plot as the protagonist in our own little novella. Trashy romance novels fill every bar. Noir pulps sulk in every alley. Billions of autobiographical tomes won’t shut up about themselves. The whole world is teeming with every story ever told. If we were as interested in real people as we are fictional characters, we might actually be able to work together.

“Did you catch last night’s GOT episode?”
“Yeah. It reminded me of this one time in college when I burnt a city to the ground.”
“Me too!”

 

 

Start on common ground. Screaming across the chasm doesn’t work, folks. If you want to hear and be heard, you have to get up close and personal. Find something you both can say yes to, and then branch out from there. By finding some small slice of common ground to stand on before expanding into uncertain territory together, it becomes easier to find an agreeable path. Like spelunking, but instead of meandering through caves, you’re navigating the troubled pits of Pop-pop’s ‘Nam flashbacks to find something you can hopefully bond over.

“Ew, what’s that, Daddy?”
“Oh, that’s just Grandpa’s emotional scars from living off of maggots in a jungle made of napalm.”
“Kind of like when I ate worms in the back yard after you sprayed weed killer?”
“Kind of.”

 

When we talk with each other, we accomplish great things. And it’s the only way we are going to succeed in this divisive environment we call The Political Process. From the campaigns to the committees to the comment sections, we have thrown out the art of civilized conversation and replaced it with opinionated shrieking. So, in the spirit of both wanted and unwanted progress, I’m taking a little step back from my opinionated, rural, socialist, uneducated, divorced, white, female point of view for a second just to see what else I can find out there. Because knowledge is power. And the more I know about your point of view, the easier it will be for me to exploit.

 

What? This is politics, baby. In this business, there’s always an angle.

 

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