Friday, October 31, 2014

More Thoughtfulness, Less Volume

A Portland attorney wrote a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal commenting on an article titled, "When the Boss Is a Screamer.” He makes a distinction between those who yell due to being emotionally unstable and those who yell to make a point.

As an example, he recalls when his commanding officer in the Navy screamed at him and he immediately “…got the message and it worked.”

The message might have also gotten through to him if it had been delivered with more thoughtfulness and less volume.

In my opinion, there are only a few valid reasons to yell: to warn others of impending danger, call for a wandering child or scream for help.

I have been on the receiving end of a screamer’s rant—it effectively closed my ears and my mind. In fact, when this has happened the result has been that I feel more empowered and consider the one yelling to be almost nullified.

The attorney ends his letter by stating, “There were many effective screamers when [he] started practicing law. However, the increase in female lawyers changed everything. Men yelled at each other and got over it. Women wouldn’t take it, wouldn’t forget it, and yelling proved so ineffective with them that male lawyers had to change their ways.”

I wonder if he knows just how telling these last words are. Because they are the final comments in his letter, we have no idea what he thinks of this turnaround. However, from his previous statement regarding his reaction to the commanding officer, my sense is he wishes the advent of more women in the profession had not forced the male lawyers “…to change their ways.”  

Most women will listen to calm reasoning and logical, back and forth discussion. We will not yield to someone whose only “weapon” is a thundering voice.

After reading this letter, I thought of the massive amount of political vitriol we’re bombarded with—the hateful and often untrue or taken-out-of-context broadcasts and broadsides which literally, and figuratively, scream at us.

Because facts are skewed and lies are strewn, I close my mind and my ears to all of this, no matter which “side” is doing the hollering. 

Instead, using some well-honed critical thinking skills, I listen to and read deftly and factually worded pieces regarding political issues. Admittedly, this process is more difficult than if I were simply a Gobemouche, believing whoever hollers the loudest. 

When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts.
When you have the law on your side, argue the law.
When you have neither, holler. 
~Al Gore

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Words' Worth

A writer friend and I had dinner together Sunday evening—a mellow, slow, relaxing dinner, albeit in a busy, bustling restaurant. In the process of easy and light conversation, my friend said one of her old and dear acquaintances didn’t care to engage in small talk and refused to participate in such. As a result, once the deemed “important stuff” receives its coverage, long, uncomfortable silences always ensue. 

That comment sent us on a round of discussion about just what constituted “small talk,” and whether it had a place in otherwise intelligent conversations. Our conclusion: yes, small talk is an imperative part of civilized communication.

A casual nod of acknowledgment to those we meet as we move through the day, a “Hi, how are you doing?” or a few minutes of light conversation with a neighbor connect us to our world. That “small talk” is not small-minded talk.

Good friends certainly have every reason to engage in a smattering of small talk; catching up on the latest news in their lives and even a bit of that old “talk about the weather.” In congenial conversations, this talk is interspersed with other, deeper communication.

As with the comfortable satiation my friend and I received from our dinner, a minimal helping of small talk often serves to enhance meatier conversation.

All words are pegs to hang ideas on.
~Henry Ward Beecher-1813-1887 – American politician

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Precious Old Growth *

searching through acres of saplings,
willowy second growth
his heart holding desire
wanting the nubile the supple, the fresh
he trod tirelessly, steeper and farther

desperate with longing

he raised his voice
its timbre a thunder, a resounding wail,
an earthquake of emotion
echoing, reverberating,
disturbing the quiet.

her roots trembled and loosened

she fell, splitting her skin, her shield, her protection,
became vulnerable, unarmored
precious heartwood revealed
she shook from the chill of it
afraid of discovery

hearing the fall, heeding his heart

he ascended still higher
raced to her side, knelt tenderly
touching her quaking branches
his eyes softened,
revelation unfolded

in the core of her being,

inner strength,
wisdom gained from storms long past
he gently caressed her and now understood
the true, durable beauty of her soul
his wandering ended, his healing began

in solid depths

he labored with love
carving new forms
of giving and taking
holding her open, holding her close
savoring the heartwood

[*or "In praise of the older woman"]