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Talking the talk

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 10:13 -- Gayle Nichol

“It’s not fashionable to be kind,” the man tells me. He states it like he’s spouting a statistic gathered at the hands of professionals


“It’s not,” he confirms for me. “It’s fashionable to mean. To be rude.”

I disagree, I say.

I don’t think kindness is a trend. It’s just one aspect of being human, and not required in every setting. But I reject the notion that it is cool to be mean and hip to be kind. These flaky generalities are accelerating the swirl of our downward slide.

I’m so over these kinds of statements, I say to the man. Kindly.

Our world has become a kindergarten playground and we expect all the sharp edges and hard surfaces to be rounded out and softened.

Life is hard.

It is sharp.

Sometimes we must be also. Sometimes we do not.

But we do have to sort some of this out quickly or risk being left behind by societies that don’t covet the bubble-wrapped existence that so many of us are tricking ourselves into believing is possible.

You can legislate the hell out of human behaviours and operating procedures, but in the end we all have to do business together. And you are either a flower who wilts at criticism and believes that someone who opposes your ideas is a bad guy, or you grow a few thorns and learn how to protect your opinion and promote your ideas.

This isn’t mean. This is managing.

Trash the mean talk and talk about communication and I’m all ears.

I would agree that it is not fashionable to communicate, I tell the man.

In a world where we look at our cellphones every 12 minutes – literally communication at our fingertips – we do not easily hear each other. It is not easy to disagree without disparagement. It is not easy to disagree without someone walking away feeling slighted.

It is a flippant oversimplification of our current circumstances to suggest that people just enjoy being mean. I believe that we have forgotten how to talk to each other. We have forgotten that we have a right – even an obligation – to speak our thoughts. Not in judgment. Not in blatant disagreement. Not in a cheap social media way of chiming in on everything from parenting conundrums to red carpet wardrobes. But in a pursuit of true dialogue.

The man I talked to shrugged his shoulders. I didn’t sway him. And I walked away knowing that he thought I was wrong. He may even have thought I was mean.

But I walked away knowing we shared a fair exchange of information. Neither of us changed the other. Both of us were heard.

Score one for civil discourse.

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