When Incivility Runs Amok: LEAP FROG Part 5, the F

We’re back with our series on civil discourse today, moving on to FROG.

 

I found this photo doing my Humor post last week, but couldn’t use it.  Seemed to fit in at the moment.

Yes.  I’m tickled too.

 

Do you dread neighborhood gatherings because they always end in a political argument?

This one’s from Pinterest, with no name. But thanks.

 

Do you secretly cringe when your seat mate on the commuter line you frequent says, “our government is finally on the right track” ?

Are you curious about how someone you’ve always liked, and who appears so sensible, could possibly believe what you just heard come out of her/his mouth?

Are you dreading that big family gathering next month because you know that you’re the only one who voted the way you did and you know the subject is going to come up?

Then, today’s post is geared to you.

Welcome. You’ve hit upon the sixth post in the LEAP FROG series, my  model of civil civic (i.e., political) discourse, which began in February with this one entitled Civil Discourse in a New Age.

I hope the discussion so far has taken some of the mystery out of engaging with those we find ourselves avoiding since last November.  AND, with the tools provided, I hope that you’re eager to engage in a political discussion that will neither raise your blood pressure nor get you written out of the will. Well, maybe not eager. Curios, maybe? Open minded?

To summarize so far, LEAP is from Listening (with Empathy), Assessing whether you want to continue in the discussion or not, and then Presenting your ideas in a way that will be heard, constitutes LEAP.  Today, we’re on to FROG, which is actually a spinoff of the P = Present your ideas. Yes, all the points I’ll be covering in FROG pertain to that last stage of LEAP.

And remember, as in any game of leap frog, these steps happen over and over and over. You are both taking turns listening (with empathy), assessing, and then presenting.

FROG, at its core, asks, “how can I present (P) my ideas in a way that will increase the likelihood that the other person will hear me?”

That is, of course, the eternal question. FROG is all about helping you present your viewpoint in a way that will be met with civility, if not curiosity.

Think back to your last political conversation.  Or, your last Town Hall meeting. Or, your last family feast. What went wrong?  Or, should I say, what went wrong first?

Never fear.  This year you will have the FROG for guidance.

And, as in all good acronyms, FROG has multiple parts. Let’s begin

F is for Facts (forget them)

We’ll start with this quote from Founding Father Thomas Jefferson:

Whenever the people are well-informed,
they can be trusted with their own government. 

It’s why we base our democracy on free, pubic education and a free press.  We want an informed citizenry.  Abraham Lincoln was a great believer in that too.

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth,
they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.
The great point is to bring them the real facts. Abraham Lincoln

And surely you’ve heard these:

If people are ignorant, facts will enlighten them.
If they are mistaken, facts will set them straight.

 

I’m here to tell you that it ain’t necessarily so, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln notwithstanding.  Let me introduce you to

The Backfire Effect 

Confronting a belief with facts to the contrary
oftens strengthens the initial belief.

 

I touched on this idea with my post on “Blame it on the oxytocin … with it’s magic spell” last August.   And yes, oxytocin, that hormone that flows when we feel all safe and warm and fuzzy (also known as the trust hormone) is to blame.  We like it. We want more. And we take steps to get more, like hanging with those who believe as we do — our tribe.

 

I can’t find a similar tune for  “blame it on the anterior cingulate cortex,” but that tiny sliver of our brain — that served us well in eons of old when the mastadon was headed our way — is, unfortunately for us, not very good at discriminating real from perceived threat.  To the anterior cingulate cortex, a threat is a threat is a threat.

It can be scary to move outside our comfort zone. Threatening to our sense of who we are.

AND, when our sense of who we are is attached to a particular set of beliefs that has just been criticized, well, we click into survival mode, thanks to that sliver on the anterior side of our cingulate cortex.

I say all this as a guide for when you find yourself sitting across the turkey from Uncle Bob (everyone’s got an Uncle Bob, don’t they?) who declares that “Hillary Clinton is a charlatan and a crook and should be in jail.”  Or Aunt Betty complains about the black family that just moved in down the street and “How will I ever cope now that my property values will surely plummet.” Or Cousin Rudy announces plans to buy himself “a brand new UZI because, gosh dang, it’s my constitutional right, by golly.”

Yup, whatever the scenario, just remember, FORGET THE FACTS.  They’re not going to help. Not yet.

 

“Scott, you’ll be disqualified the next time you say, ‘We’ll just have to agree to disagree’.” Thanks to cartoonstock.com for the image.

 

How about you? We’ve still got an R and an O and a G to cover.  Will you venture a guess?  

13 Responses

  1. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Oh, I’m intrigued , Janet. Of course, I agree that the facts are crucial to understanding, but in our current emotionally-charged, political environment, those facts don’t seem to matter. If only we could all “agree to disagree”, then try to work together. Now, I’m looking forward to the R-O-G, anything to help me through those awkward moments around the dinner table when the ‘T” topic comes up!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks Kathy. And thanks again for reposting to your Twitter feed. I get a lot of traffic here when you do that. Gracias, mi amiga.

  2. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — I’m with Kathy Pooler on this one:

    I’m INTRIGUED.
    I appreciate the willingness to AGREE TO DISAGREE.
    Im looking forward to R-O-G

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks, Laurie. I have to say, I’m feeling intrigued as well. There are so many ways to go with F-R-O-G. The initial post for F was going to be FEELINGS. So many ways to go. I just changed the R again yesterday. (Was to be REFRAME, taking from George Lakoff’s work) But that was too heady, too fact-based, given today’s. Perhaps, when these are all over, I’ll do a post on the “words that got away.” Thanks, too, for you Twitter shares.

  3. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    R – relate (as in a personal story), O – opine (share a belief, rather than a perceived truth), G – get the hell out of there, lol? I do think “forget the facts” is great advice, and is one place I know I frequently get hung up. I find it maddening and next to impossible to argue, for example, climate change, when the other party refuses to acknowledge science or facts. But so much of what we’re up against these days has little to do with facts and everything to do with ideology, steeped in misinformation and outrage. ‘Looking forward to learning how “R-O-G” might help penetrate this seeming blockade.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      But you are an attorney, Tim. I’d hope you were attached to some extent to FACTS. And I guess, as in everything, there’s a time and a place.

      Anyway, your comment made me smile. Particularly your G. Good one. (that one was covered, you’ll recall in the A is for Assess, which was the title that made my mother think I’d simply written in too many Ss.)

      On to ROG.

  4. Joan
    | Reply

    Facts seem to mean nothing in our screwed up world. Trying to use facts to explain things these days is like teaching my dog to drive a car.

    Just to give you another think about Frog, my maiden name, Zabski, means frog in Polish!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Zabski — I could have a really good time with that one. Thanks, Joan.

      It must have been quite a time to live back when last names were first coming into common usage. Woody used to tell stories of how those last names came about in Holland. It was under Napoleon, whom they all hated. So, when the officials would come knocking on the door to “collect” the family’s last name, they would make up preposterous things in Dutch, which the French didn’t understand. So, today you have many Dutch citizens with such last names as “born naked” and “go take a leak in the outhouse.” These are, of course in Dutch.

  5. Joan Z. Rough
    | Reply

    I love those fake last names, Janet!

  6. Anna
    | Reply

    Facts, indeed, must be ignored. Look at the last year’s Brexit vote. To make conscious decission, every voter needed to digest a heap of information from experts or follow bare emotions on this vote.
    Majority of population now are already drowning in information – open your FB feed for a proof. Quality of information would be the next step but if you have a choice after a tiring day at office to dig through the several complicated economy module researches or look at cute kittens playing, your tired brain will pick kittens every time. So, indeed, we can forget about facts and experts.
    So we are left to operate on bare emotions. And here comes the danger. Moving forvard, following new ideas into unknown is scary – our brain is made to stop us, to protect us from such dangerous move. So when we follow our emotions, we tend to fall back into memories of the childhood when Sun was shining all the time, grass was greener and ice cream was best thing ever – we tend to fall to the right with simple, fundamental values. Like that kitten video on FB. Like slogans of certain politicians, offering simple slogan type answers to complex questions.

    The solution? Finding fundamental, simple values with the opponent to start discussion with, and finding the similar simple values to move into future. Forget clever facts. Unite, based on the favorite childhood icecream, unite on kittens. Offer future where ice cream will taste again as good as the one from your childhood. Offer future filled with happy kittens (or whatever common emotional base you can find). It works.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You raise an important point, Anna. Staying even modestly informed (assuming we’ve chosen our sources well, too) takes time, energy, and some investment. As I’ve met more and more people these past months who tell me they were once apolitical, I’m forming an opinion that when our government is flowing along and we’re feeling well taken care of by it, people tend to focus on other things. I can’t criticize that too much. Perhaps political apathy can be a measurement of how well the government is providing for one’s needs. White middle-class America has been apolitical for awhile now. The poor have been too busy surviving, and the various minorities are a minority still, and fractured, therefore easily ignored. We have Trump to thank. His election has woken many up. And coalitions are forming. It’s an exciting time to be political once again.

      As for feeling like I’m drowning in information, I actually don’t. I’m very selective in what I read and who I listen to. AND, at the same time, I’m trying to add a few sources that are considered “Right.” It is time consuming, but at the moment, it is also vital to my sanity. Ice cream is too cold for me and fluffy kittens give my grandson asthma. So, I’m safe. Thanks for adding to the mix. Here’s to finding those common core values that link us all together.

  7. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    R for constantly regurgitating fake news!!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh no! I hope not. But thanks for taking a stab, Susan.

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