Civil discourse, according to Wikipedia, is engagement in conversation intended to enhance understanding.
I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, when it comes to that. The good took place recently at the MAAP meeting I attended with the folks at the NCBTMB. It was a great meeting of intelligent people who were all invited to participate in a discussion about continuing education, and not an ugly word was spoken.
The good was exemplified again this past week in the comments on my previous blog post, and on the AFMTE LinkedIn page in response to Rick Rosen’s position paper “Vision for the Optimal Role of National Certification.”
Some very bright minds have weighed in on that. Some of them support Rosen’s position; some disagree; some like parts of it. And somehow, the conversation has managed to take place without name-calling, insulting anybody’s mama, or the questioning of people’s ethics and/or credentials in a rude manner. People have been free to express their opinion and have done it in a polite manner.
That is completely contrary to what has been happening on a couple of the other discussion forums that I participate in. A few weeks ago I made a post on the massageprofessionals.com website, entitled “Stop the Insanity.” It was a plea for people to engage in civil discourse and leave behind the bad behavior. I’m sad to say that it hasn’t happened; the mudslinging has continued, and several people who really have a lot to contribute to intelligent discussions have left entirely on account of it. It happened again this week on another website when the owner sent out a notice to everyone on the site making an accusation against a fellow therapist. He later admitted his error in judgment as an emotional response to something he was passionate about and apologized publicly, and I’m glad.
Participating in a conversation on an Internet forum comes with a few inherent flaws. You cannot hear the tone of anyone’s voice, nor see their body language. What you perceive as sarcasm may in fact just be passion for the subject at hand, that would come off sounding entirely different to you if you could hear and see the person saying it.
There’s a song that says “free your mind, and the rest will follow.” Some people would do well to take heed of that. The close-minded set who think their way is the only way, and who refuse to remotely consider that someone else might have a valid point, cause the conversation to deteriorate into a combination of the bad and the ugly. I have been embarrassed to see otherwise professional people calling each other names, making wild accusations about people’s credentials, refusing to address a legitimate question directed at them, but instead turning around and replying with a snarky comment or answering it with another question and evading the issue altogether.
If I was a member of the massage-seeking public, and I had witnessed the behavior of some of these people on some of these discussion boards, there’s no way in hell I would allow such an angry, bitter, and closed-minded individual to place their hands on me. I would reach the conclusion that anyone carrying around such an angry and superior attitude couldn’t possibly bring any peace and well-being to me.
I happen not to agree with Rick Rosen; it’s not the first time I’ve disagreed with him and if we both live long enough it probably won’t be the last. In fact some of his own board members at the AFMTE have expressed their concern in response to the comments that have come in on LinkedIn. It was done civilly and without any wild accusations and bad behavior. When I run into him at a meeting, I’ll still sit down and have a drink and a chat with him, or anyone else who disagrees with me. It’s called civil discourse.