Monday, March 26, 2012

Constitutional Conversations

As I listened to the NPR news this morning, the headline story was about the Supreme Court beginning it's arguments on the sweeping health care law. Although I have strong opinions about health care, what really caught my attention was the word arguments.  

When I hear the word argument, I picture two or more people, red-faced with pumping fists, speaking with loud voices, attempting to prove their point and not listening to the others. 

It seems to me that if the Supreme court Justices were expected to have a Constitutional conversation where they can listen, share and eventually collaborate, would make it much more likely that the best and just decision could be made. 

Arguing humans are not usually at their best. When we argue, we're afraid of being misunderstood, overlooked, misused or abused. The key emotion that can be present  here is fear. When we are afraid, we are defensive and sometimes even feel the need to attack. Our words and actions don't always make sense, but that doesn't matter if our need to be right is what we're fighting for. When we argue our need to win or be right seems to outshine the need to be fair or just.

On the other hand, when a conversation is taking place, all parties are more likely to not be in a defensive mode. Openness to hearing all of the facts, being fair, respectful and collaborative are qualities that can be seen when one is not in the state of fear that arguments can create. 

The bottom line on this topic is that it seems our government and society is set up to argue, debate and fight to get it's way. The side with the largest number of supporters wins. 

Unfortunately, as this mode of fearful exchanges continue within our society (including our elected officials), we miss the opportunity to really understand what our opponents are saying or to be truly heard ourselves. 

The end result of most arguments is that no one wins.