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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"You're stupid and mean. Want to go to a movie with me?"

Illuminate or bludgeon

A Daily Pilot commentary sparked remarks that illustrate two ways of approaching issues. The letter addressed a need to deal with the unfunded liabilities from employee retirement benefits.*

The first two and the fourth remarks below illustrate a positive and respectful approach to debating the issue. The third illustrates the approach we see from the “chronic haters;” an example of insulting one’s opponent to open a discussion. It drops the debate from rational argument – and solution seeking – to common diatribe.

“Charles, glad you agree. And I'm encouraged you get it. The trick will be to do it right . . .”
“Good commentary. You can fool people, but you can never fool math.”
“This City Council majority has a history of ignoring consultants and experts (sic) advice, at the expense of the taxpayers . . . , looks like he’s just kickin' that old can down the road…” 
“The analogy is interesting and I appreciate CM4RG actually talking about the elephant in the room in an intelligent way. But am I wrong? Didn't the author miss a very important issue as he . . .”

Agreement in the dirt and sun

A city employee who is active in union affairs was working beside me Sunday afternoon.

While we were sweating and getting dirty cleaning up the scarecrow area we discussed an approach to politics that annoys both of us; starting a discussion with insults

His examples of egregious openings differ from mine; samples of both are paraphrased below. Our examples are easy to tell apart, but the important point is, how likely is the ensuing discussion to lead to solutions both parties can live with?

“Your side is only concerned with your pay and benefits, you won’t try to help the city or compromise, or  . . ."
“You two (Mayor and Pro Tem) are destroying the city by the way you hate employees and want to lay everybody off  . . . “ 
“Your union is filled with rogues who are criminals and they just try to intimidate  . . .” 
“You guys (same two) are trying to bankrupt the city and pave over the vernal pools and  . . . so you can line your pockets/benefit your developer friends  . . .”

Start with insult -- go nowhere

These assertions, like those in the third example of comments above, are all false, unsupportable and inflammatory – without adding any information or insight to a discussion. Using them in a problem-solving discussion is more likely to block progress than to move toward solutions. 

If the tactic is chosen to inflame or to block progress, then the assertions are useful. Otherwise, they’re simply emotional manifestations of weak thinking skills.

*DP Article: Here

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