Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Madrid demonstrations; The personal touch; & The Rules of Polite Discourse.

Saturday evening in Spain saw the culmination in Madrid of the 'March for Dignity', in which two and a half million are said to have taken part, making it the largest demonstration in the country's democratic history. The protest, of course, was against the devastation caused to young and old alike by the financial crisis and the subsequent austerity policies of the government. There were clashes in Madrid but not much violence. Showing immense sensitivity, some politicians from the governing PP party dismissed the protest as "six columns of left-wing extremists led by an actor from Cuba, not even Spain". Presumably they see their inflation-proof salaries and pensions as safe from the mob. Sadly, they may be right.

There was another demonstration in Madrid at the weekend, this time from a pro-life group. One's used to seeing estimates of crowd numbers that don't agree but this was perhaps the largest divergence ever. The organizers claimed 100,000 people had taken part in the march, while police estimated the figure at no more than 6,000. Perhaps the pro-life group included angels of one sort or another. Incidentally, one of the speakers said "We need 280,000 children that are the victims of abortion to live as part of our generational replacement." Somehow, though, I doubt her principal concern was socio-economic.

That the Spanish prefer to do business face-to-face ('personally') is well-established. Indeed, in his book The New Spaniards, John Hooper suggested that if Spain didn't move away from this mod op, her economic growth would be affected. Me, I prefer emails, especially as I always have to ask any Spanish phone interlocutor to slow down so I can follow them. Yesterday I emailed my gestor to ask about making an insurance claim for the 615 euros' worth of water that recently leaked from my system. A guy called back and told me the only claim I could make was for the repair. Then he said he'd look at it again and asked if it'd be OK to email me. I guess this means it'll be bad news. 

Finally . . . . These are the Rules of Polite Discourse. Based on my experience of talk-shows and panel discussions on Spanish TV, I'd guess they've never been translated into the language of Cervantes:-

- Address issues promptly – If you let feelings fester, that is just what will happen: They will rot you from the inside out.

- Express your feelings and thoughts – How can you expect the other person to understand if you don't express yourself completely?

- Listen actively – Active listening involves eye contact, nods, and affirmations. Listen both for what is said and what is not said, for feelings expressed and feelings suppressed.

- Don't get upset – Allowing yourself to become driven by emotion indicates that your reason has taken a back seat. If you notice yourself or the other person becoming agitated, call a "Time Out."

- Validate the other person – Each person's feelings and concerns are important, however misguided they may seem. Realize that other people's perspectives ARE their reality, the way they honestly see the world.

- Don't get defensive – If you notice yourself becoming defensive, say so or ask for a "Time Out." If you sense the other person becoming defensive, try to ease the tension and examine what could have triggered such a response.

- Avoid "You ..." generalizations – Accusatory statements usually trigger defensive behaviour and do not promote free expression. Try to use specific examples – "always" and "never" statements are weak, needing only one exception to be disproved.

- Stay on topic – Don't allow other issues to enter into the discussion. Though important, these issues deserve to be addressed separately.

- Check understanding – Try restating what you heard to see if that was the intended message. It takes two to communicate – the speaker AND the listener. Both parties share the responsibility for clear communication.

- Don't be repetitive – If you repeat a statement to clarify a misunderstanding, be sure to emphasize the difference in meaning – otherwise you may seem to be merely grandstanding.

- Always be respectful – Rudeness is never appropriate or acceptable. Remember that to earn respect you must first show respect for others.

- Don't interrupt – No one likes to have a train of thought derailed by an impatient listener. What you have to say is very important, but listening to the other person is even more important. Frequent interruptions indicate a lack of concern for what the other person has to say.

- Let the other person respond – If you launch into a tirade, listing a multitude of offences, you are inviting an interruption. The other person surely has a response for each of your statements and, denied the opportunity to express these thoughts, will rapidly become impatient or agitated.

- Suggest solutions – It is easy to complain about a problem. Actually suggesting solutions requires much more time, effort, and thought. The very act of developing a solution requires viewing the problem from a new perspective and, possibly, realizing how difficult it is to design and implement a workable solution.

- Agree to disagree – Sometimes a solution cannot be found. In such cases, agree that you will not resolve the issue during this session and end the discussion on good terms.

It's just possible that, looking back over the years, I may not have been a perfect practitioner of these rules. 

1 comment:

Perry said...

My brother & I are so often right when it comes to discussions with others, including family, so after a couple of minutes of fruitless listening to the other side, we just say: "Listen I'm right, you're wrong, do as I say". None of this nonsense about validating the other person's point of view. They have to understand their place in the pecking order.

The corollary of this is that both he & I have no difficulty in apologising to the other side on the extremely rare occasions when we are not correct. Except to one another because I am always right & he's younger than me, so how could he possibly be right?

He says with cheek bulged from tongue. An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.

Robert A. Heinlein



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