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Friday, March 26, 2010

Reasoning: Listen to Abe

Abraham Lincoln said, "When I'm getting ready to reason with a man, I spend 1/3 of my time thinking about myself and what I'm going to say, and 2/3 thinking about him and what he's going to say."

On the surface, he could have been referring merely to active listening. You know, to get the most out of a conversation, you need to set your ideas aside, keep your mouth shut and let the other person talk.

That answer is a fine one. I wonder, too, if we should focus on the word, "reasoning" to capitalize on President Lincoln's deeper point. I think he means "reasoning" in the sense of talking with or persuading another person logically and persuasively.

One might conclude that, in order to be the most successful in reasoning with another individual, we need to understand the ideas that the other person holds true. We need to endeavor to glean the point of view and be open to discussing it.

The way we can best do this is to actively listen and try to exhibit an empathetic spirit, even if (especially if) we don't agree with the point or points the other person is embracing.

How can we expect to persuade another to our point of view if we're not willing to be open to discussion and understanding? How can we be effective with our ideas if we don't understand the background and contexts? It can be extremely uncomfortable, yet very effective.

What do you think?

The worst evils

"The worst evils in the world aren't done by evil people. They're done by good people who don't know they're not doing good." ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

Let's think about that. There are countless examples of good people who've caused great damage to other human beings, to themselves, and to the world. Wars fit into this category. Things now thought of as "crazy" in the medical or scientific worlds, have done great damage. So much of the damage is caused by ignorant, good people.

Now, let's think about it again, but after filtering out people:

1. who we know of today, but who aren't close to us.
2. who lived before us and who we know about through history.

Who does that leave? It leaves us.

Now, since we're fallible humans, there's no way to ever rid ourselves of committing "the worst evils." They're going to happen.

What we can do is always try to think. We've got to think about our actions -- with our families, with our friends, with those at work (especially when we're leaders) -- and do our best to make thoughtful, instead of thoughtless decisions.

I think we can all agree that we don't want to commit one more of those worst evils if there's any way we can avoid it.