All too often we shy away from difficult topics when having discussions with each other — be it religion, sex or politics.

The idea is that these topics are too controversial to talk about and will inevitably lead to confrontations or hurt feelings, but discourse doesn’t necessarily have to be adversarial. The reason these topics are touchy is because they’re important to us, but we need to realize that discourse itself — talking about issues and learning different perspectives from one another — is also important.

Too often we treat a debate like a battle. Lines are drawn, trenches are dug and we decide getting a jab in at our opponent is more important than treating each side fairly. This can lead to ad hominem attacks (“Yeah, but you grind your teeth!”) or what is termed “Whataboutism,” in which we jab at the other side by bringing up an unrelated topic in an attempt to point out hypocrisy. “You think apples are better than oranges because they sometimes contain worms? Well, what about oranges? I found a worm in an orange once, and oranges are hard to peel…”

We need to be more understanding and civil when having discourse, so that we can learn from one another and reach the common ground that we all share.

Otherwise we may find out we’re all living in bubbles and slowly drift apart, one day realizing that there is far more that divides us than brings us together — all because we avoided talking about issues that are important to us.

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