Passionately Dispassionate: the Etiquette-ful Stance

Angry Businessman

Good teachers urged us to “Speak your mind! Speak up!” Giving your voice life by speaking with friendly passion lets others know you are serious and that you want to be authentic.  

Dispassion is equally important.  The ability to think clearly and make good decisions because you choose not to be influenced by negative emotional outburst is praiseworthy.  Being clear-sighted, or passionately dispassionate, does not mean you give up feeling deeply, empathetically, or compassionately.  

Angry emotionality is a different thing.  Being etiquette-ful requires us to step aside from such negativity.

Appreciating Different Points of View

A democratic civil society requires us to allow differing views.  Not everyone has the same opinions or comes forward with the same perspective.  In these times of virus-imposed social isolation we might even occasionally profess that we “haven’t been ourselves lately,” getting carried away with emotional tension.  

No doubt, there are a lot of social tensions with many causes.  And sometimes we meet up with others who are looking for a little disagreement, if only to let off their own steam or to find somebody to “talk at,” if not “talk with.”

Practice clearly articulating your own opinion in your mind.  Toning down not only sets a tone of respect, it reduces the risk of not fully expressing your point or creating misunderstanding.  Nowhere is it required that we share our views, and all views can be stated with civility.

The Art of Being Passionately Dispassionate

It is never appropriate for emotional outbursts — anger, hatred, disgust, fear, indignation — to affect decision-making.  Feelings are tempered with thinking and knowing how to act respectfully.  Emotional accusations have no place when exercising etiquette-fulness.  Practicing impartiality and articulating reason when making a case is the etiquette-ful way to go.

There are a few methods for remaining passionately dispassionate during conversation.  You can deflect the subject at hand, initiate a pause to gather your thoughts, or state the obvious in a kind way to bridge understanding.

Using these three methods in various situations may look like this:

  • Question from a colleague: “Can you believe the news again today?”
    Answer: “Yes. These times are really challenging.  I wanted to ask what you think about Mary’s proposal that we meet on Thursday rather than Friday?”
  • Statement: “It’s hard to believe that we’ll still have a country if all of this keeps up!”
    Reply: “We’ve sure got a lot going on, that’s for sure!  What’s on our meeting agenda today, Chris?”

Taking a Pause

  • In a meeting: “John, don’t you think our company needs to officially let others know what we stand for in these challenging times?”
    Reply: “Yes, and would you think on exactly what that would mean from all points of view?  We can then talk more about it at our next meeting.”
  • Statement by Kristy via email: “Ted, I really don’t agree with what you said in the news about Bill and it’s hard to accept.”
    Ted’s reply after pausing a few hours: “Kristy, I agree and you’re not alone.  It’s really been tough having so many rocks and hard places to be between.  Thanks for understanding.”

Stating the Obvious with Kindness

  • You, heading up a business meeting: “Up front, I confess to too much of stating the obvious.  And I know you have other things on your plate for work.  I want to thank you for taking your good time to meet up on Zoom today.  I’ll admit it’s just great to see your faces without masks!”
  • Mom to her daughter who has just been grounded from inappropriate use of her phone: “Jen, I don’t want to block all of your socializing.  Is there anyone I need to let know about any plans together?  I’d like to help out.”  

The words we say and the tone in which we say them can have a profound effect on other people, particularly those in our household.  A news report on television, an unexpected event, or a tense interaction can cause you to blurt out angry confirmations.  My guess is that if a dispassionate pause were applied, others would be grateful.  

Respectful discourse is always called for.  And even if you haven’t perfected it yet, you can state what you want to be: “I am passionately dispassionate!”  Not only are you affirming your commitment to communicate kindly and respectfully, but you intend to receive the gift of being heard because you express your thoughts and opinions clearly and concisely.

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