Archive for the 'Stone' Category

Getting what we asked for

August 1, 2011

I get the impression that part of the reaction to the debt ceiling deal of many people who don’t agree with the Republicans is that they (the people doing the reacting, that is, not the Republicans to whom they’re reacting) have made no contribution to the situation that produced it.

While those of us who disagree with the deal, and with the Republican bargaining tactics and substance, didn’t ask specifically for those items off of some kind of menu given to us by the waiter (I’m picturing Grover, the Sesame Street monster serving the guy with the round blue head), we were not AWOL on Mars during the past thirty years.

How did we get here?

Ann Landers used to talk about how no one can take advantage of us without our permission.  I would re-frame that in terms I think I read about in a book called Difficult Conversations (by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen): interactions involve contributions from all involved.  There is also the perspective on the same issue, I think, of programs like Al-Anon, that our attitudes make a difference, that we may become unreasonable in our own way without knowing it and contribute to the chaos, having been sucked into it without realizing it.

I think it’s unfortunately true that behavior we think is justified and okay, other people may actually find hurtful, or at least they may react to it defensively.  We don’t get to decide how they will react.  I think this applies to the Tea Party.  They are reacting to something.  They seem to be vulnerable to styles of discourse that seem to involve factual errors, anger, and bitterness.  What shapes people to be receptive to this?  Why do people glom onto to charismatic television personalities and candidates with simplistic sound bites?  How do television personalities and candidates develop into these characters themselves in the first place?

We see the difficulties of reaching hearts and minds abroad — I think the same difficulties are present at home.  People tend to be “doing their best” in the sense that it is the best they can do given the way they have developed to date.  Their — actually, our — strategies may be maladaptive but they protect the self, at least in the short term.  People need to develop on the inside in order to exhibit different behavior.  What they — make that, we — need in order to undergo that development maybe is what would be more effective for us to focus on, including for ourselves as individuals.