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LOCAL COLUMNIST: I like big buts, and I cannot lie

Monica Sheppard

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.

My goodness, we sure do have a lot to argue about these days, don’t we?

If you are itching for a fight, all you have to do is go to the nearest computer or newspaper to find all the fodder you need to stir up a good old-fashioned rant. Or, perhaps, go for a drive. When I was young, we used to pile the family into the Suburban for a nice leisurely adventure. What were we thinking? There are crazy people out there! Most of whom need to hear from us about exactly how they are messing up. Because we know exactly what they should be doing, right?

BUT, what if we are wrong? What if we are just showing our big derrieres?

How often, in our rush to get our two cents on the table, do we pause to say BUT? Not often enough, I would propose. What I find most fascinating about this modern world of communication is how easy it is for us to pontificate and posture and pound our chests, then turn off the computer and walk away, secure in the knowledge that our sound bite sounded good and right and perfect. Never mind the fact that there are often a thousand different ways of looking at the issue, a thousand different facts that we don’t even know, a thousand ways in which we might … be … wrong.

I can sit at my desk and write these words to you good folks, but I will admit that when the opinions start flying on social media, I tend to take a step back. We are bombarded with so much these days, sometimes agenda-driven, sometimes not, and there is simply not enough time in the day or room in my head to process it all on top of the things that I am already required to digest. When I let my emotions get the best of me, yes, I can spout a thing or two. Sometimes I am even right. BUT, I often end up hearing a different angle, or learning a new component to the situation that causes me to flesh out that perspective even further and I end up regretting that I put my smaller thoughts into the world.

I am saddened by how often I see people planting flags on tiny hills and refusing to entertain alternative thoughts. Life is full of buts, there is no way around it. Friedrich Nietzsche would argue that the only absolute in life is that nothing is absolute. Whether you agree with him or not, take a moment to consider the ways that your perspective on recent issues might be rounded out by considering other ideas. Just to hear them out, at least.

I especially think buts are important when it comes to how we approach each other. Think about the last time you said to yourself, “______ is such a fool to believe _____ ! That is it! I’m unfriending them.” What if, instead you said, “I’m so surprised that _____ believes ______, BUT we have agreed on other stuff in the past, so maybe I could ask about where they are coming from, maybe they know something I don’t.” There are so many buts we can turn to, “BUT, they are family and I care about them for many other reasons.” “BUT, this particular topic might be hard for them based on their experiences.” “BUT, maybe they would consider my perspective if I kindly shared it with them.” “BUT, I may be reacting to something that isn’t exactly true so I’ll look deeper before I give up on them.”

Now, I’m not trying to suggest that we can never come to a conclusion or have a final point. Nor do I intend this to mean that we are never right. BUT, isn’t it through lengthy and considerate dialogue that we are best able to reach those places? Major Robert based his Rules on the idea that orderly layers of discussion were important to decision-making in a group or organization. I wonder what he would have to say about the giant forum we have created through social media? What would he propose we use as structure for productive dialogue in such a setting?

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that he might tell us to stop being butts and consider the buts. BUT, that’s just me…

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.