Thursday, November 10, 2011

Respect for diverse opinion

My friend and I were responsible for checking references of candidates for the job.  In the case of one of them, a respondent who knew the candidate but had not been listed by the candidate as a reference was asked what he thought of the candidate's performance.  "Well, he's an ok guy, I guess, but he persists in holding unpopular opinions."  Just the sort of person we were looking for!  The candidate got the job and is now the head of the plant.

An instructor of mine was explaining the pain he felt from reading on one of his students' evaluations that said he was a vulgar person.  This man is about as far from vulgar in the sense of 'coarse' or 'crude' as a person can be, in my opinion.  The vulgar judgment was related to the instructor's advocacy of the writings of Lewis Grizzard.  I had never heard of Lewis Grizzard but on learning about the comment, I immediately downloaded two of Grizzard's books, "They Tore Out My Heart and Stomped That Sucker Flat" and "Elvis Is Dead and I Don't Feel Too Good Myself".

We have been in a program designed for laughter and fun.  Today, we played some games that both adults and children might play and did play before radio, tv, movies and the internet.  It was hilarious! Then, we learned that one evaluation of the event in previous sessions complained that they had played "childish games".  That was the point!

Feedback and evaluation are important and can lead to improvement.  But using those tools is not a simple process.  It needs to include judgment and discernment.  Respect for diverse opinions seems a little bit rare today.  There is simply no way, none at all, that everyone is going to agree.  There will usually be dissenters from any opinion.  They may have a better idea but they may not.  Respect for other opinions seems wise but fearing or detesting disagreement seems pointless and paralyzing.  For example, I estimate there is a 50% chance that Lynn and I will agree on anything.  However, in our 6th decade of marriage, we have learned to expect disagreement on any question and to explore the opinions involved.  Often, our final stance is a blend of good points from each of us.  I once heard that if you and I always agree, one of us is superfluous.

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