Obnoxious Talk and Community Impact

June 2002

Ed lived up my street a few of years ago. He thought the speed limit through our neighborhood should be 15 miles per hour instead of the 25 posted. If cars passed by faster than that he would yell at them to slow down, often using colorful language. Whosever house they stopped at would soon receive a phone call, screaming and cussing that their visitors were going 60 miles per hour past his house and acted like he wanted me to draw and quarter them.

An interesting thing happened over time. Where I might have been partial to his concerns starting out, his continued behavior made me want to drive faster when I passed his house. Why is it that so many people live by the misguided notion that increasing levels of obnoxiousness will help endear others to your point of view?

Yet so many resort to the same tactics in public discourse. It amazes me that people think that their angry tirades, name-calling, or spurious accusations that may play well with their own constituency will alienate the very people who just may be looking for a way to help you. Yet in school board meetings, city councils or community committees I see it play out over and over again.

In Common Ground work we want people to know they don’t have to scream to be heard, or attack someone just because they disagree. In fact, when people speak outside the expectations others have for them they have more impact and help build the mutual respect that will allow others to share their concerns as well. The powerful voice belongs to conservative Christian leaders who speak out against the harassment and abuse of students and staff perceived to be homosexual, or the gay rights advocates who defend the rights of families to have a different moral view from their own.

When you are willing to stick your neck out for the rights of people who disagree with your point of view, you have made a giant step toward the common ground. It is cultivated not by people who agree on all the issues, but by those who agree to treat legitimate differences with respect.

Special Notice: BridgeBuilders has been awarded a grant by a private foundation to help underwrite our expenses (in whole or in part) for providing Common Ground workshops for health educators, parents and/or administrators dealing with the controversies surrounding HIV/STD prevention. If you would be interested in scheduling Wayne for a training opportunity in your area for the 2002-2003 school year, please get in touch with BridgeBuilders as soon as possible.

Wayne Jacobsen, President
BridgeBuilders

Special Notice: BridgeBuilders has been awarded a grant by a private foundation to help underwrite our expenses (in whole or in part) for providing Common Ground workshops for health educators, parents and/or administrators dealing with the controversies surrounding HIV/STD prevention. If you would be interested in scheduling Wayne for a training opportunity in your area for the 2002-2003 school year, please get in touch with BridgeBuilders as soon as possible.

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