I love talking to people. It is one of my favorite pastimes. Having a great conversation where you learn about the person or people, sharing ideas, and gaining a new outlook is one of the things that makes me smile. It ranks right below reading and writing as something that I absolutely love. Dialogue fits my naturally inquisitive nature. If you have ever had a conversation with me, I would probably be the main one asking the questions. It’s not because I don’t like talking about myself or that I don’t find me interesting; it’s that I want to know about the other person. Reflecting on this, I guess this is why my first two books were filled with interviews about other people. I know me, but I want to know you.
Unfortunately, what I have been encountering as of late is people talk to respond, to only get a point across. There is no consideration about the other party in the conversation. Logging onto social media, there is plenty of people sharing their opinions, stating facts, and yelling, but there is no real back and forth. People just state what they believe, do not listen to an opinion that may be the opposite of what they have presented, and if people don’t like it, then the dragging commences. It’s almost as if there is no room for a view point that could be different. Debate is not tolerated. Instead of issuing a statement and waiting for the other party to respond, there is an endless barrage of messages designed to silence the person. The art of conversation has been lost because you don’t like what someone said.
I understand why people feel empowered on social media and in some spaces today. Many who yell on Facebook, drag on Twitter, and cut folks off in real life probably never had their voices valued. They weren’t listened to when they were younger, and their opinions and thoughts were disregarded, so when they are given access to a platform where they say what they want and people listen, it is new to them. This is a total liberation of a voice that has been locked down. The draw back to this is most of the time, these folks are just talking to talk and will not regard any response. Interactions have turned into battles and he/she who is considered wrong, loses.
Last year I had a nasty encounter with someone on Facebook. She and I had a difference in opinion over Black men being falsely accused of rape by white women. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Historically, Black men have always been thought of as hypersexual creatures that cannot be controlled and are prone to raping and assaulting the white woman. When I began to cite the almost regular convictions of African-American men that have been overturned due to false accusations and new evidence being discovered, I was attacked with various anti-Black insults and profanity. I tried to have a civil discourse with the person, but could not due to the barrage of swearing. I shut down the conversation and became very angry. I thought about the exchange for a couple of days and realized that she didn’t want a conversation, but only to yell. I then chalked this up to someone who didn’t know how to have a civil discussion because she was never listened to.
In the age of social media and questions like “What are you doing” are shortened to “WYD” via text, learning how to listen and have a conversation is crucial. Having healthy dialogue and being able to disagree and not flare up into an argument is very important. Realizing that the historically marginalized voice needing to be heard is important. Most importantly, in my opinion, we have to get to a place where the object of a conversation or debate is not to win, but to learn. That is how ideas are born, how people discover, and minds are opened. Let’s stop trying to turn every talk into a warzone and get back to learning.