Grateful to be fully vaccinated, some of us are relearning the art of unmasked, face-to-face conversation. I hope this shift won’t breathe new life into low-tech tools for muting one another.
For example, “You’re in denial” uses classic psychobabble to silence disagreement. If you answer, “No, I’m not,” you just proved the speaker’s point.
Another conversation-stopper is “Can’t you take a joke?” It shifts blame from one who says something offensive to the one who takes offense. Uneasy with threats to batter a spouse or kill an elected official? If you don’t want to be dismissed as humorless, better keep your mouth shut.
“I’m just saying” is a more recent addition to the toolkit. It supposedly takes the sting out of a remark by labeling it casual opinion or observation. Rather than an invitation to explore, it signals lack of interest in analysis or debate. You are free to respond, but your response will fall on deaf ears. You’re on mute.
5/3/2021 08:00:40 am
There are so many ways to "not hear" or not acknowledge uncomfortable truths that many books have been written to try to challenge folks to hear others' truths. One of the things I have done during this "time out of time" season of my life is to explore some of these stories.
5/3/2021 08:29:02 pm
The learning and growing can be exciting, though challenging as you say. And the fact that we (at least many of us, including me) tend to read or listen more to the sources we already agree with perhaps makes it even easier to tune out other perspectives.
5/3/2021 10:30:10 am
5/3/2021 08:35:19 pm
For dominant individuals and members of dominant cultures to intentionally mute themselves, so as to really listen to (i.e. avoid muting) others, can be surprisingly rare or difficult. Making space for others to speak is a form of power-sharing and a gift to the community as a whole.
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.