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Can we talk?

Can we talk? No, really.  Seriously.  Can we talk?  I find it interesting that this simple three word question implies so much.  When I hear the question, a certain weight and seriousness enters the conversation.  An assumption is present that the topic is important and maybe even uncomfortable to discuss.   This question is typically directed to one person so it is a private and personal conversation.   

When we respond "Sure" or "Yes",  the most important implication is that not only will we talk but we will listen.  We will provide our undivided attention to the information being provided.  The time limit for the conservation is not set in stone but typically it will take more than 7-30 seconds or 180 characters.  It is implied that the conversation will take as much time as needed to fully convey the message.   Due to the complexity or sensitivity of the subject, it is understood that we could reach a point where we need a break to contemplate what has been said so we stop and say, "We will talk more later".    

During the conversation, it is assumed that we will seek to understand what is being said because the topic is important at least to the person conveying the message.  Most of the time, the question implies that the conversation is not meant to be an argument.  The person starting the conversation may try to persuade but not fight.  In other words, I believe the question implies there is a desire to be civil while addressing a difficult topic.  I also believe the question implies that the listener is not necessarily expected to respond immediately.  The information may be so important or complex that it is assumed that we will need time to digest and ponder the information before a response or decision can be made.

To me, this process of explaining something to another person in a private and civil manner with time to thoroughly discuss and ponder is becoming a lost art.  In this age of lightening speed information we are expected to digest and have an opinion at lightening speed.  We think we become experts by listening to 7-30 second sound bites.  In other words, we can be easily manipulated.  Civil and intelligent conversations are becoming less common as the news and social media are geared to convince and persuade but not to educate us so we can make our own informed decision.

I am old enough to remember the days before cell phones were common.  When I began my law practice,  fax machines were quickly coming into use.  I remember an older attorney lamenting the introduction of the fax machine.  He noted that prior to fax machines, an attorney would draft a well crafted letter and mail via US Mail.  The mail could take one to five days for the opposing counsel to receive.  No one was exactly sure when the letter would be received and therefore, we weren't sure when the response would return.   We just waited.   Once the letter was received, the attorney would read the letter and draft their own response which would be returned via US Mail.   No one expected an instantaneous response.  Each party to the correspondence was given time to research, discuss and ponder their response.  With the implementation of fax machines, the waiting and pondering time was gone.  Responses were to be given within 24 hours or less.  Gone was the time to reflect so faster responses were not always better responses.   Even more concerning is the fact that sometimes during the waiting a solution is found.  While waiting tempers calm, hearts change, more facts become available, and pondering produces alternatives.

After fax machines came cell phones, e-mail and text messages which made everyone accessible all the time and anywhere.  If we are accessible anytime and everywhere, than we should be able to respond immediately to everything.  Once again, our time to ponder has been drastically reduced if not completely removed.   All of these conveniences and luxuries which were meant to free us and make us more efficient infringe on our free time, add to our stress and lower the quality of our responses.  Most significantly, we lost the waiting.  We lost the vital time where tempers calm, hearts change, more facts become available, and pondering produces alternatives.

Social media has added to this need for quick decisions and instant responses.  We scroll through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat with a looming expectation that we will make an instant decision whether we like or dislike the content in front of us.  Posts are designed to elicit instant responses which means they are skewed representations of reality because very few important decisions can and should be made instantly.   How odd is it that while scrolling on our phone we can decide if we "like" the video of the cat falling off the table" or if "like" Decisions and opinions are formed based upon a blurb that is intended to make us click to the next page or persuade us to accept someone's opinion.   We are having fewer conversations that start with "Can we talk?"  Civil conversations that involve listening, exchanging ideas, gathering information and than making decisions based upon facts from all perspectives are far too few.

You may wonder how this relates to a webpage to devoted to Title IX compliance.   My desire in my posts is to present information in a "Can we talk?" format.   In other words, I hope to provide information that provides balanced information in a non-confrontational manner.    The discussions surrounding sexual harassment is in desperate need of more "Can we talk?" conversations.  We have many headlines, tweets, and posts that are crafted to illicit an immediate condemnation.   I will not deny that there are publicized acts do justify a swift and loud condemnation.  However, we still need to be careful as the pendulum is swinging.  We should want to provide justice for wrongs without creating more injustice.  

As a society, we need to openly discuss our expectations in regard to sexual relationships.  Individuals involved with Title IX investigations and hearings have started that conversation.  As a society we need to listen to understand the problem, ponder,  and provide a standard to our children that will protect them from being abused or becoming and abuser.    The majority of parents want healthy and happy relationships for their children.  Can we talk about how we will provide them with the information they will need to achieve that goal?








Christine Garner