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The Communication Breakdown of America

– What We Have Here Is Failure To Communicate – 

While many major American cities are burning to the ground and rioters and looters take advantage of the brewing race war in America, it’s time to examine the real issue. The killing of George Floyd has gotten Americans moving in the streets. 

The protesters want justice for Floyd, arrests and full prosecution of the killer cops, and some peace of mind that black citizens are safe. Looters are taking advantage of the situation to better their life with stolen smart TVs, Nikes, and iPhones. 

Is racism the cause of all of this? We don’t know what drove disgraced police officer Derek Chauvin to kill George Floyd, but we shouldn’t jump to a conclusion and outright say this killing was racist. Bad policing could also possibly be the reason that Chauvin killed Floyd. 

If it isn’t racism, what is the problem in America today? In simple terms: a communication breakdown. In today’s America, conversations cannot be had. At one time, if two people had disagreements, they would debate their points, listen to one another, and make a decision. At the end of that conversation, the two parties usually walked away as friends – or at least, respecting one another’s position. 

Today’s Conversations

Here’s how things look today: Person A will say that they like chocolate chip cookies. Person B will quickly turn it into a “You don’t like raisins? What’s wrong with raisin?” Person A will say something like “No, I like raisins, I just prefer the chocolate…” and Person B will interrupt them. “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DON’T LIKE RAISINS!!!!” and then quickly blocks Person A from all forms of communication. 

Alternatively, Person A will hold the same stance. Person B will then report Person A for being discriminatory toward raisin cookies to their employer and attempt to get them fired from their job, ousted from their friends group, and their personal and professional life ruined. 

Obviously I understand that the idea of racism, police brutality, and freedom of protesting is not as simple as cookie preferences. Don’t crucify me for using a simple concept to attempt to explain a much more serious concept. There is a communication breakdown that needs to be fixed now if we want to remain what has been known as the United States of America.

We have quickly become the Divided States of American Ideals. We live in a great nation. A nation with flaws that strives to improve itself daily. A nation in which you are allowed to protest in the streets. A nation in which you can take to social media and announce your display of support for movements you believe in. A nation in which you can also denounce leaders without any real consequenses. 

On Facebook, I have seen too many conversations like this: 

White Person: “If you don’t think that white privilege exists then you should delete me! I don’t need racist people in my feed.” The irony in this type of post is the poster’s white privilege is actually shining through: “hey you, I am a white person and if you don’t agree with me, you should do all the work because I am not willing to do any work myself to weed out people I disagree with.” And then they sip their nonfat, almond milk lattes. 

I have also seen many posts that say “If you say ‘All Lives Matter’ then you don’t understand what is going on and you should delete me.” The problem with posts like this is that we all have a duty to explain and defend our positions. If you think that ‘All Lives Matter’ more than ‘Black Lives Matter”, then DEFEND YOUR STANCE. Blocking people from your feed is also blocking them from education on your counterpoint. 

American politics have always been about convincing people that your point of view is the right point of view. To gain voters, you make speeches, have debates, and get interviewed on respected television and radio programs. In other words, you have conversations

It used to be that you would turn on the television and ‘Candidate A’ would be interviewed followed by ‘Candidate B.’ Today, most networks only allow people they agree with on their airwaves. The communication breakdown is real. If it isn’t fixed, it will be scary. 

Fixing The Communication Breakdown

Here’s some good news: The communication breakdown can be fixed. Here are three realistic steps we can take as a nation, and as individuals, to heal the communication breakdown. 

  • We need to start allowing people who disagree with us to state their opinions clearly and openly and without fear of condemnation. 
    • Many times, we are too quick to pounce on someone for having an opposing view. It is unfortunate. Instead of allowing people with opposing viewpoints to lay out a case for us, we knock them down with “fact” and “group think opinions” that don’t actually move the conversation forward. 
    • If we allow people to say what they believe, why they believe it, and lay out a proper case for their views, we may be able to address their thoughts head on. We would actually see the logic to their viewpoints and realize they are not just reciting talking points from the top down. 
    • According to conflict resolution training,, allowing someone who you are in an argument with to talk and say everything that is on their mind while taking notes to discuss later can actually help further the conversation in a positive manner. You make the opposing party feel heard, you take them off the defensive, and the conversation remains positive and calm as opposed to becoming an argument. 
    • Allowing the opposing party to state their claim will also give you the chance to properly address their claims. You can give them a point/counterpoint for each of their talking points. You will also be able to address each point with calm knowledge. 
    • Allowing them to communicate their points, and addressing them when they are done will also establish a pattern of respect during the conversation. You will be able to calmly ask them to let you finish your points before they interrupt. 

  • Stop blocking or cutting off people for having opposing views
    • America is the most beautiful when people of different social backgrounds, religious backgrounds, economical backgrounds, etc., are able to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee while discussing the things that bring them together and the things they oppose. 
    • Cutting people off from the stream of information in your particular viewpoint is only going to make that person more likely to harden themselves to anyone with your view. Many times, I find people who have opposing views as me, and because I allow them the chance to freely express themselves and have a dialogue with them, they tend to be more open to conversation. 
    • “Cancel culture” does no one any good. I often see people say, “I got blocked by a [fill in the blank] today, guess they can’t back their claim. Shows me I am right,” and it just makes them more opposed to the viewpoint that you hold. It does you no good. Can you imagine if you were a salesperson who blocked every potential client who was not interested in what you sold? You would get a reputation of being hard to work with, and also spread a reputation of being difficult for other salespeople. 
    • Blocking someone from social media also cuts them off from things that may show that you are actually a kindhearted person. Sometimes we envision people based on their views. If we can see them as real humans who do silly and goofy and kind and loving things, we might be able to say “Okay, they aren’t terrible people. Maybe I can converse with them.”

  • Stop being a keyboard warrior! 
    • It is easy to fight with people on social media. It’s easy to attack someone’s look, mind capacity, or call them names online. All of those things do nothing to advance the conversation. In fact, they turn people away from the facts and bring in feelings instead. Facts don’t care about feelings, they care about facts (Technically, facts don’t care about anything. They can’t actually feel. And that’s a fact).
    • As we all know, tone is inaudible via keyboards. We can never tell when someone is being serious, sarcastic, flirty, or darn right vindictive via text. Calling someone and offering to take the conversation offline in a medium that one can actually sense tone in is important. If you are having a serious debate with someone, you might want to stop typing and start calling. 
    • You are more likely to be able to communicate your points and listen to points over the phone or face to face. You also won’t have to deal with chasing down multiple threads, multiple replies, and one person replying faster than the other. 

If you are looking for the TL:DR, here it is: LISTEN! We tend to talk, rather than listening. I am the biggest offender to this charge. I have podcasts and radio shows and blogs where I do a lot of talking and not much listening. 

I have pledged to try to do more listening. I want to hear opposing viewpoints. I want to be a better person by listening to the views of people I don’t agree with. I want to learn as much as I can. I want to listen louder than I speak.

In summary: allow people to lay out their viewpoints, stop blocking people, call people instead of fighting online, and listen! These should heal the communication breakdown in America. 

There, I helped! 

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