Because all experiences are valuable.

Monday, June 11, 2012

On Reasoning

I long for the days when people stopped to understand the meaning of the words they use. Are most people even aware anymore of the difference between the denotation and the connotation of a word? Our language as it is used is becoming so imprecise that I'm finding it more and more difficult to interpret what anyone says to me.

Casual conversations go on all the time, and I recognize that many conversations do not have to be parsed or any underlying meaning looked for, but important conversations consisting of important thoughts and emotions should have a precision to their words. If one's thoughts are significant enough that they need to be understood...or in the vernacular, if you "really want someone to know where you are coming from", why would one not use the most apt and applicable words? To that end, then, why don't people know the meaning and the possible implied meanings of what they are saying????

It's just a thought process I'm going through as I ponder the fact that "a reason" and "a defense" are not at all the same thing. You can have a valid reason that you did something, or made some decision, that is completely indefensible. (Or at least mostly indefensible.) You can provide a reason that is unreasonable!

Sir, why did you kill your wife?
Because I thought her fake eyelashes were gross.

Well, he certainly provided a reason for killing his wife. But he did not provide any sort of defense.
I am also pondering the fact that many people become what most term "defensive," when asked to provide a "reason."
To be asked to explain or elucidate one's reason for any action or decision is not the same as being challenged.
Inquiring as to someone's reasoning is not inherently an "offense."
Do you see what that means? People constantly go on the defense when they are questioned...at all.
By taking the defensive position they are saying, "You have offended me with your question about my reason, or my reasoning."
There is an underlying jump made that the person asking for the reason is passing judgement, or is about to pass judgement, or that it is a judgement in itself just to be asked what your reasoning was.

To understand each other as human beings, we must be able to understand each others' reasons and reasoning. For someone to ask you for your reasons or reasoning is the branch they are handing you, whether it is a slim twig or a beautiful extended olive branch. It is your opportunity to help them understand you. Is that not what we all want? To be understood??

Someone tell me how this horrible American cultural trait of (as I see it) extreme defensiveness can possibly foster understanding between anyone?
I believe that it is most often not the questioner who is being "offensive." It is the answerer's defensiveness that is actually offensive, and usually escalates the issue into a conflict.
There is a lot to be said about "tone of voice." I know that. It's a big issue. But that issue is layered on top of the issue I am discussing. When someone asks you to explain your reason for something, they are seeking to understand something. They are seeking to understand you...in a direct and personal manner...at the core.

I'm hoping people will think about this, as I am. Pondering how we got this way?? Wild West type stuff- "Bold American spirit" brooks no questions? Is it too much testosterone as in a macho attitude? Is it not even American, as I suggest? Is it poor parenting?

I suggest a link to parenting styles for several reasons. One possible thought is that parents who do not explain their reasoning to their children (as in "because I said so") rob their children of the chance to see adult thought processes in action (hopefully good ones.) Guy lead to me listen to "Outliers," by Malcolm Gladwell on CD, and Gladwell speaks of a kind of parenting that leads to success. This style involves parents who lead their children to confidence and mature interactions by questioning their child's reasoning as a teaching opportunity, and also by prepping them before social interaction with their peers or adults in a kind of rehearsal. I'm reminded of Dr. Seuss' "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street." The whole premise of that book is that the father asks the son to come home and describe for him what he saw on his trip from school. The boy imagines all sorts of fantastical things because he wants to impress his father. I remember vividly being questioned by my father, having logical and ethical dilemmas proposed which my sisters and I were expected to reason out or debate. My mom would join in with her reasoning. This is what we did on long car trips, or out to get pizza on Friday night.

In our house when Guy and Reid were growing up, we liked to play "Apples to Apples." It's a school age game that can be played by all ages. In the proper way to play it, there is a category card that the "chooser" for that round holds. Others have cards with various nouns, pop culture things, names, movie titles, concepts. Everyone chooses a card they think best matches the category. The chooser then looks through the pile of cards, not knowing which card was selected by whom, and picks a winner for that round, who then keeps that category card. That was just not satisfying enough for us. We changed the play so that the chooser would narrow down the field to two or three cards, then ask who submitted them, and give them a chance to defend their card. Everyone was playing from a pledge to show no favoritism, only the arguments held sway. Then the chooser would also explain their reasoning for choosing the card they did. Many of these tiny mock debates were hilarious, and they began to also take on an element of applying what you knew about that chooser for the round and what arguments or reasoning might sway them to choose your argument. After our style of play, none of us can sit and play the game the regular way...just too dull. My point is, it was all about how you thought and what you could reasonably explain to someone else. I think this is sorely lacking in household interaction in America.

Maybe it really is  just linked to our loss of the nuances of our language...when no one really thinks about these things any longer....
I choose to view any question asked of me as a chance to elucidate my point of view. If I don't like the tone of voice, I will likely comment on it, but still answer to the best of my ability.

Just don't ask me questions in the movies or at the theatre. Hahahahha. There I'm likely to whip out the can of snotty "hush yo' mouth." If you aren't sure what that is, just ask!! 

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful...worth every second...if only those who need this would read it and take it seriously.