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My Friends Call Me Rod. You Can Call Me Rodney

February 15, 2021

Ever notice that some people manage to discuss politics without getting angry? Even if they are talking to someone they disagree with. Even if it’s a contentious subject?

Some people seem to be able to remain calm even in the middle of high stakes emotionally charged conversations. I’m one of those people. I enjoy those types of discussions. I’ve always found it fascinating to try to figure out why people believe the things they do. I believe that people’s are smart and typically make rational decisions. I like to hear why people believe differently than I do. Because I think that I’m smart and make rational decisions.

I have opinions on most things. I have a political persuasion. And I’ve followed politics for a very long time. So, what’s the secret to have a nice polite political discussion?

One or both participants must speak the other person’s language.

I’m not talking about speaking English. But, speaking a language that is understood by those you are debating.

Suppose I said, “No one is coming for your guns”? What position do I have on the gun debate?

Suppose I said, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people”? What position do I have on the gun debate?

“Boys shouldn’t compete in girls sports”

“Trans girls are girls”

“The imaginary man in the sky doesn’t exist”

“No matter the question, Jesus is the answer.”

“Libtards”

“ReTHUGlicans”

“The election was stolen”

“Trump is guilty of treason.”

You can tell instantly which side of an issue I come down on if I make sone of those statements. And if you want to hold a worthwhile discussion on those topics (LGBTQ+, Guns, Religion, Trump) you have to first decide that you don’t care about being right.

If you want to know why those who disagree with you think the way they do, you need to start off from their position, not yours. You have to speak their language. Now, the phrases I’ve used above are pretty pejorative, judging. You don’t have to adopt the pejorative language, but you do need to abandon it and adopt a neutral position.

I was involved in a facebook discussion about trans athletes in sports. You probably have an opinion on it. I certainly do. I also have close friends who are transsexual and who are gay. I respect them and certainly don’t want to see them discriminated against. I also understand that biological males and biological females have different physiology. And pound for pound biological males are stronger.

There were already people in the discussion and it was going about the way you would expect. One side insisting that boys shouldn’t compete in girls sports and the other side saying that trans girls are girls.

What about cases where cis girls have lost high profile events to trans girls?

I’m not sure if that was my exact question, but it was something like that. “Cis” just means that you present yourself as the same gender as your birth gender. It’s not at all an insult. It’s simply a description. A way to distinguish “normal” people from trans people. Except that if you decide that anyone not trans is normal, you are again using pejorative language.

Maybe it’s the years I spent working with the deaf community. Deaf people, are not hearing-impaired. That implies that they are someone inferior. One of my best friends said,

Do I look IMPAIRED to you?

No, he did not. He was deaf. Are the people who are not deaf normal? No, that would imply deaf people are someone abnormal. People who are not deaf are hearing.

I learned to use inclusive language, not because it was politically correct, but because I didn’t want to keep offending my friends.

When I adopt the language of those I disagree with, I’m not gaslighting. I’m not playing devil’s advocate. I’m not kowtowing to political correctness. I’m simply speaking in a way that doesn’t needlessly offend those with whom I want to speak.

Now, if both people in a discussion try to speak each other’s language, or at least speak a neutral language then, and only then can real change happen.

I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons. I once found myself on an anti-Mormon website. I think a friend had insisted that if I’d just read it, I’d agree with his point. Whatever the reason, the site was pretty typical. It described Joe Smith, the founder of the Mormon church, as a failed treasure hunter, who had searched for Captain Kid’s treasure. I reached out to the site’s creator.

BTW, the pirate’s name was spelled Captain Kidd with two “d’s.” I noticed you had spelled it with a single d. You might want to change that.

The site author responded.

Wow. This is the first time I have ever changed anything on my site because a Mormon asked me to correct it. Would you be interested in having a longer discussion?

Not really. We won’t change each other’s minds. You’ll quote the first few verses of the Gospel of John to me and I’ll quote Jesus’ baptism to you and we’ll both still believe what we believe about the nature of the Godhead.

It didn’t matter to me if he spelled the name of Captain Kidd correctly or not. But, because I was willing to “speak his language” (Referring to Joseph Smith as “Joe” is a typical anti-Mormon derision) we were able to have a conversation.

My given name is Rodney. But, I didn’t start using it regularly until I left college and started in business. My high school friends and my family call me Rod. People I’ve met since college call me Rodney.

Occasionally someone will attempt to create a feeling of familiarity by calling me Rod instead of Rodney. Note, I never give them permission to do this. Typically it’s someone trying to sell me something. What he doesn’t realize is that one way to ENSURE I don’t buy what he’s selling is to use a name I didn’t give him.

Do you prefer to go by Rod or Rodney?

My friends call me Rod. You can call me Rodney.

It always gets a laugh. But, it’s funny because it’s true. And yes, if I ask you to call me Rod, it means were friends.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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