”Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” — Rumi

Words can hurt. Just as sharp and piercing as a knife can be a thoughtless or unkind comment. Words can bully, insult, and tear relationships apart. Many of my patients have shared how painful it has become to have conversations with even old friends and family members who disagree on certain issues, policies, beliefs, and the direction of current events. No longer is it simple to have a discussion in which we disagree, and agree to do so. Rather, a hyperbolic and highly opinionated word torrent is now threatening to rend our social fabric.

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.

(7) comments

Wayne Holt

Fantastic column, and one that probably should be front page featured. It is very difficult in today's amped up political, religious and cultural environment to remain calm and constructive in dealing with people who hold different opinions from us. I fail at it regularly so I ought to know.

If we can just focus on solving whatever problems separate us, and not on the personality or values of the other, it can go a long way. This doesn't mean we can't defend ourselves or our principles in the most effective way we know. But the energy goes into figuring out solutions rather than spinning our wheels in confrontation.

I remain hopeful that human beings are, albeit slowly, learning alternative ways to deal with each other that are more helpful than our primitive urges to bludgeon the opposition into submission. In fact, I think normal people the world over are way ahead of the power seekers in government, corporate and institutionalized cultural organs when it comes to this approach.

Thanks for a refreshing and helpful change from our usual fare of polarized discourse. And any article that starts with a quote from Rumi gets big thumbs up right out of the starting blocks.

George Croix

"Here’s a simple example. Mom says, “Felix, when I see three balls of dirty socks under the table and two more by the TV, I feel irritated, because I need our shared living space to be orderly. Would you be willing to put them in your room or in the washing machine?”


"Without judging Felix by implying he’s a slob, lazy, or other label, she just notes what she observes, describes how it impacts her feelings, then states her needs and requests. She’s taking responsibility for her feelings and using the NVC process to communicate in a helpful way to enrich her life, if even in a small way."

Or, as the parent, she could simply tell Felix to go put the socks in the wash room!
Actually parenting, rather than raising a neurotic who grows up expecting everything to be explained before action on his/her part is required, before he/she can then decide whether to comply or not.

To each his own, but, to me, thsi is an excellent example fo why this country is full of snowflakes and 'safe spaces'.....

Of course, I could be wrong.....
But, I'm not...

Richard Huepers

Is Felix 47?

Wayne Holt

I have a great example of how this type of communication works, George. You and I disagree on how best to solve the feral cat issue. In our exchanges, you have been civil and I hope I have been the same. You explained, in several posts, why you were not in favor of what was being proposed and I tried to give more details about why I was in favor. Neither of us felt the need to personally attack the other and so I am able to address you here without any feeling of. "Oh boy, here it comes now..." If you look over this feature again you'll see it has to do with how we talk to one another.

I think that is really what is being advocated here. When a child grows up learning that there are REASONS why parents usually know best, the world is more understandable and they in turn learn that reasoning with a person is usually a much better way to arrive at some kind of resolution that everyone is OK with.

I think you may have assumed that if Felix tells Mom to bug off, that is the end of it...and that indeed would be the "safe spaces" result because it is one where you get what you want, when you want it and just talk over the other person until they give up.

But Mom's response after her very reasonable opening, upon hearing a lack of cooperation, could include any number of deprivations. Felix must learn at a young age that there are consequences but he is also learning a very important ANTI-SNOWFLAKE message when Mom reasons with him: he is learning other people's needs, interests and feelings are to be considered along with his own and that arbitrary orders that are not based in reason--like many of the demands I see made by the more extreme snowflakes--will not have the results he thought they would.

You're a bright guy. Think this through again and I believe you will see that what on the surface seems objectionable here actually teaches the correct lesson of respect for DESERVED authority and not just blind obedience to commands from on-high. I've read enough of your posts to assume that is something you would find to be a positive. And on that we would most certainly agree.

George Croix

Wayne, I don't think I assumed anything.
Of course, I also thought the Erhard Seminars were complete bunk....
That any 'parent' would negotiate and have an impromptu psych session over putting socks in the laundry just does not compute in what I consider a sane world.
We do not ask a teacher to negotiate with a student over the sum of 2 plus 2, and the job of a parent is to teach their kids, not play Dr. Spock...imo......
To each his own, except when the little darlings have 'friends' or 'analysts' as parents, and continually become other people's problems once exposed to the realities of...life....
It's a totally different thing in the workplace, where, supposedly, we're dealing with adults.
I started every shift, unless some emergency was taking place, with a crew meeting where we swapped info about what we had been told at shift change, what the goals and jobs were that had priority, and any concerns or ideas any of us had. Ultimately, we worked at our tasks, as safely as possible, that we were expected to do by those higher up, our boss(s), unless some good reason to divert occurred. We did not get to negotiate or refuse routine tasks.
That's adult level understanding and reasoning, something impossible or unlikely if any of us had been raised to consider the most minor of things to be up for refusal to do. These were also people trained to accept certain facts and realities, like not being able to negotiate the function of a debutanizer, or wait around and discuss a tripped off charge pump.
There's a time and place for soft sell, but there's is never ALL of the time for it.
Not with you on this one.
My way doesn't work?
Tell that to the valedictorian/cum laude grad/chief resident/doctor, now raising two little ones with the same PARENTING techniques.....

If your way works for you, then have at it...

Wayne Holt

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.

The author of this feature story seems to have turned out pretty well using other methods.

George Croix

Is, is that how they were raised?

I'm more interested in saving as many in the lifeboat as possible, not in making all feel good about dying equally.....[wink]

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