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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hush: An Open Letter to the Right | Courtney Carver, Be More with Less

When I first saw the headline for this article, I thought it would speak to my progressive politics. But the author clarified that point right at the start, and I'm pleased I continued reading anyway. She wrote (emphasis added):
I’m not writing this letter to you because of your political affiliation or religious beliefs. I’m not talking about that kind of right. I am writing to your need to be right. I am writing to your desire to fix things. I am writing to your inclination to view the world through a very small lens.
But here's how I related to her words. It bugs me when I'm talking with some people about an idea, and their first reaction is always negative: "Nope, not feasible. Have you thought about the cost, the consequences, the effort, the time, your boss, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera?"

I don't respond exactly this way, but I think: "Of course I have, you imbecile! I wouldn't' be suggesting it if I hadn't thought about such things."

Well, actually, some people do ask good questions that will need to be answered at some point. And, actually, sometimes when I express an idea I haven't thought it through completely. It's just an idea ... and I'm mentioning it as a discussion-starter, to check what other people might think before I spend much time on it.

But it still bugs me. Why begin a response to an idea with "no" -- or other words that mean the same thing? That sure doesn't encourage creativity or any effort at all to deal with an issue, solve a problem ... to simply help!

Now, back to this article. I don't (always) expect to be considered right in my idea-making and idea-spewing. I don't (always) expect someone I admire to be considered right in his or her idea-making and idea-spewing. But I think it's unproductive and ineffective (and simply rude) to make a person feel wrong after first describing an idea.

Carver writes:
Think about how many times in a day you think, “That’s not right.” And then think about what being right has ever done for you. Did you earn love? respect? relief? a promotion? peace? or did you just move on to the next thing to be right about? When you are focused on being right, you lose sight of what is really important.
As she notes, people already too often think to themselves, about themselves, "That's wrong." And without much thought about the circumstances, the motives, the values, the expertise (and so on) of another speaker or writer, they initially think, "That's wrong."

And that's wrong!

Carver writes:
When you remove judgement from a conversation, you have an opportunity to connect with someone and to learn something. Everyone has something to offer, something to teach you, but if you can’t hush, you’ll miss it.
She uses "hush" as a nicer, more productive term than "shut up." And I like it. She concludes:
That’s what we need to tell ourselves when we go to that judgey, pious, I wanna be right place. Hush and invite life to unfold. Hush and give people a chance. Hush and consider that the best things in life don’t come from being right.

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