The Key To Effective Debate Is Listening

To the Editor:

After attending Elizabeth Esty’s town hall meeting on reducing gun violence several weeks ago, I found myself agitated to the point where I needed a beer to calm down before heading home to bed. So my cohorts and I landed at My Place to indulge in one of their exotics. As luck would have it, we sat at the bar next to one of the founders of Sandy Hook Promise. Our discussion quickly centered around what to do about gun violence. Although the conversation seemed like a continuation of the town hall meeting we participated in earlier, this one was much more constructive.

Unlike the town hall event where people talked at each other loudly, the discussion at the bar involved statements of fact or opinion, some thinking about what the other person had just said, and then offering a response in a way that actually carried the conversation further. It clarified for me, at least, what would need to be done to make things safer for us all.

When people start repeating the same facts louder, as happened at the town hall, then you know they are angry to the point where different ideas and opinions will not make any impact on them. This impasse is almost impossible to overcome. The situation can become dangerous. We find ourselves in the position of having to defend ourselves against the names and epithets lobbed our way. Being unable to disagree with dignity in our public discussions about gun violence, adds other victims to this tragedy. We need solutions.

Not accepting this truth about needing solutions means that people will find ways to become obstacles to achieving safer communities. I submit that the first place to effect change is with ourselves. For the sake of our children, we must do a better job of listening to each other. In thinking about the town hall meeting again, I realize that I had missed a chance to build a bridge to the other side. I did not take a fellow up on his offer to discuss our differences over a coffee. Too bad for us.

Rich Boritz

30 Still Hill Road, Sandy Hook                         March 11, 2013

More stories like this: Sandy Hook Promise, guns, Esty
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