Plain talk works best.

These are my notes for a future, more fleshed-out blog post. Sorry; at work on other things!

Nut graf: In one-on-one conversation, you can poke at your discussion partner’s emotions or you can logically discuss the issues, but you cannot do both. Go ahead and use judgment-laden words when you want the adrenal stimulation of a mudfight. But when you want a logical discussion, choose to say and hear the most plainly descriptive words you can.

Characterize and describe your ideas using words that everyone could agree on, even if they don’t agree with your point. For example, if you want to talk about US military actions overseas, use those words. If you call it “protecting freedom abroad,” you’re loading it with positive judgment. If you call it “military adventurism,” you’re loading it up with negative judgement. Words that contain judgments trip emotional switches that turn logical discussions into personal fights.

When you want to communicate that you don’t believe that cutting taxes and expenditures will help the economy, say something like “I’ve seen no evidence that reducing public expenditures can increase a nation’s overall economic activity.” If you say “No serious economist supports your fantasy that austerity creates prosperity…,” your listener will likely hear only the insult to his own intelligence.

That’s hard enough. What’s even harder but just as valuable is to hear the non-judgmental point behind your discussion partner’s lazy use of value-laden labels. When you hear, “Soaking the rich doesn’t create jobs,” it will help the quality of your discussion if you can pretend you heard

  • “Increasing taxes on wealthy people won’t encourage them to use their wealth productively.”
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About Karen McKim

Retired from a 30-year career in public sector quality assurance and management auditing, I now spend my time in civic activities promoting our ability to exercise our right to self-government. I have two focuses: verified accurate election results, and skills for talking politics with our fellow citizens. Based in Wisconsin.
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