Respectful Rhetoric

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By Kirk McCarley

Kirk Mccarley

A lot of communication can be tiresome, not only loud and obnoxious, but intrusive, all knowing, and self-centered.  I reduced much of my television viewing for these very reasons.

Print media can be just as provocative.  A publication I read online flashes advertising for a car dealership upon clicking to the first story selected, repeated clicks to remove the ad seemingly either ineffective or further locking in and illuminating the ad.

To be fair, I’m not casting stones solely at our oft-maligned journalists. Many interpersonal conversations center upon the first person pronoun–I, me, mine, we, rather than the interests and welfare of the other person.  I suppose this tendency has always been part of the human condition, but why shouldn’t we expect better?

A while back while thumbing through an issue of PEOPLE (okay, I read PEOPLE) I happened upon a story about Chip Gaines, he half of the husband/wife Fixer Upper team of HGTV Fame.  To the surprise of many, Chip and spouse, Joanna, had just announced their departure from HGTV.  He said something important in that article about bridging the gap between people with widely different points of view:

“I wonder if being angrily shouted at or arrogantly debated with has ever swayed a single person?  Are human hearts moved by being ridiculed and mocked?  When people fling accusations with the presumption of knowing another person’s intentions, what possible outcome could they be hoping for?  Who would ever move to their enemy’s camp under such treatment?  

I really believe that we won’t get anywhere, that no healing or breakthrough can occur apart from developing actual relationships with one another.  As much as I love Twitter, Twitter feuds aren’t going to work.  

I believe with all my heart that it’s only after working side by side with another person that you earn the right to speak into that person’s life.  It’s a basis of friendship that can forge a path towards common ground.”  

Benjamin Franklin was a master of rhetoric, often answering a question with another question.  What this technique accomplished was not only getting his views across through carefully wording the inquiry response, but invariably defused potential contentiousness.  Further, although a person of esteem he often downplayed aspects of his own life that would place him too far above the average man.  There was an aspect of connectivity.  We saw this trait in President Truman.  In actor James Stewart.  In evangelist Billy Graham.

“The Franklin Effect” was one avenue that Franklin used to deal with animosity and disagreement.  He explained how he dealt with the animosity of a rival legislator when serving in the Pennsylvania legislature in the 18th century:

“Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days.  He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour.  When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends and our friendship continued to his death.” 

The “Effect” comes from one of Franklin’s personal philosophies:  “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he who you yourself have obliged.”

So how do you defuse interpersonal conflict, promote your view, and bring about persuasion?  And remember, “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”

A graduate of the University of North Texas, Kirk McCarley is a Certified Professional Coach as well as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and SHRM-CP Certified. He also is a Production Assistant for both college football and basketball for ESPN and leads group cycling classes as a Certified Spinning instructor. Contact,, or call  314-677-8779.

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