For an introduction to this series, look here
Let’s not agree too easily about things that really matter
Those are the conversations I find most frustrating – when the person who’s talking to you is just looking for backup. You’re not there to contribute, and certainly not to suggest an alternative way of looking at things. Just nod, or express suitable words of agreement, commiseration, celebration, or whatever it is the other person’s looking for. And if you break the contract and actually express an opinion, you’re really in trouble.
I’ve never been any good in those sort of encounters. I just can’t resist saying something which doesn’t quite fit with what’s expected. Sometimes I really should keep my mouth shut – but not always. There are times when the contract needs breaking, because what’s being said is not something you can just let pass.
That’s been especially important, and especially difficult, these last few months. In uncertain times, emotions have run high, and people have tried to make sense of what’s happening in and around them, sometimes by listening to conspiracy theories, or by blaming the victims.
It’s a tricky balancing act: offering the emotional support that others need, without colluding with opinions which are untrue or unkind. I wouldn’t claim to have got it right. But Heraclitus encourages me that the effort is worth making. Searching for truth will always involve disagreement, and especially in turbulent times. And with so much falsehood around, it’s all the more important.