Tuesday, September 23, 2014

There’s always time to be civil

There’s always time to be civil

(My Clovis News Journal column for August 22, 2014.)

It is really easy to misunderstand other people; to misinterpret their words, tone of voice, and actions. That's why you should be careful about how you react toward anyone. Don't say or do things which can't be taken back if you discover you took something wrong. It makes for fictional comedy, but real life misery.

Recently I was going to the post office, and on the sidewalk in front of me was a person who was going slowly; having some difficulty and walking with a cane.

I wanted to be nice and open the door for her, so I stepped around her to get the door. As I did so, she made a comment about being sorry she was blocking my path and making me go around her. The comment sounded sarcastic, which shocked me, since that was the furthest thing from my mind.

I told her I was just trying to get the door, and she said that was very nice of me.

But the encounter kept bothering me.

I thought about the assumptions involved, and how everyone appeared to be assuming the worst of the other person.

It certainly seemed to me that she assumed I was impatient about being behind her, and rudely leapfrogged past to get to the door. But was that what she really thought?

I wondered if instead the assumption was mine, and she hadn't actually intended anything sarcastic by her words. Maybe I was reading something into it which wasn't there.

Either way, I'm glad that I didn't impulsively say something rude in response to my interpretation of what she said. If she had meant the sarcasm I thought I heard, it would have only escalated the situation; if she hadn't intended sarcasm, then I would have been the jerk.

Unless someone is physically attacking you, there is always time to be civil. It doesn't hurt you at all to refuse to return rudeness for rudeness, even when it's real.

Which ties in with being an ambassador for liberty.

Most people who advocate theft and aggression- or support those who employ one or the other- don't do it to be nasty. Most of them don't even realize what they do. Almost everyone becomes defensive when their errors are pointed out to them, choosing to dig in their heels and ignore contrary evidence with even more determination. That's just human nature. It's also human nature to never want to see yourself or your loved ones as the bad guys.

When possible, assume the best of people until they give you clear reasons not to, or are an immediate threat. Give them the opportunity to do the right thing. Maybe they'll surprise you.

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