A point of View © 1996
Of Monologues and Dialogues
By Paul V. Montesino, PhD, MBA, ICCP.
We humans have an inborn bias towards listening to our own voices. Whether it is our crying at the crib, our tantrums as we grow or our tendency to have the “last word” if not the “only word,” we seem hypnotized by their sound. Note that I mentioned “we”, not “you.” I consider myself part of that specie.
But that’s not true all the time. Babies are soothed and warmed by the voices of their mothers. No one talks much about it, but it’s almost certain that the nine months or so we spend floating in our conceiver’s wombs, we hear their voices day in and day out, or perhaps the unique vibrations of those voices, and get used to them. Should we be surprised if those babies recognize those sounds and come to trust outside what they heard inside? That those mothers continue to use those sounds to make their babies feel good, go to sleep, or even to feed, is part of the deal.
Mothers are excellent communicators. We’ve been told that the first words out of the extra terrestrials when they land on earth will be “Take me to your leader.” I beg to differ. If they are as smart as any space traveler must be, they’ll probably simply say: “Take me to your mom.”
Once out into this world, humans develop our own languages and make use of them either talking to ourselves or talking between ourselves. The former is called monologue, the latter dialogue. Unfortunately, some of us don’t make the right choice between one or the other when we try to communicate and create much misery in our lives or the lives or others.
Listening to your own words alone all day long is not a recommended or productive way of communication; it’s actually very limited. Ideas are not easily challenged while they are jumping from one place to another in our own brains. They might sound logical, reasonable, genius perhaps to us, but counting only on our own opinion does not provide a seal of certainty.
It’s not difficult to recognize the monologists in a dialogue. They are the ones who start the conversations, dominate most of the airtime, and finish last. Give them a microphone, I’ve done it more than once, and they never let go. You are lucky if you can get a word or two between their own, usually with little contextual relation to them. It’s difficult to offer a word of comfort to a person heavily involved with words of discomfort. No wonder it’s so difficult to agree not only on the solutions to our problems, but even be able to define what the problems are all about. We say black, when white is required, high when low is advised. That’s called dissonance. I’s like singing a song out of beat. Don’t try to dance a tango in the middle of a rock and roll. The feet will get confused; you may even fall.
What brings me to the point of this article. Finally, you may say. We must avoid monologues when we must dialogue. We can see it in our political arguments. Screaming and yelling for our football teams in the stadiums is fine but doing the same about political solutions to our many national problems is no way to solve those problems.
The same is true with prejudice and preconceptions. It’s common knowledge that one will find a convenient nail to hit if one always carries a hammer. There’s no other solution available. As it’s when we judge human beings using our hammer judgments.
Deciding to start and continue a dialogue that leads to solutions is a sign of mental health and respect for others, their lives, their points of view, and also a sign that we intend to achieve results. You may have noticed that the title of my columns has been “A Point of View” since my first article. I offer it only as one possible interpretation, my own, and one possible solution, my own. I don’t impose it on anyone. I don’t call it “The Best Point of View.” That would be arrogant, self-serving, a monolinguist type of conversation.
A good example of a monologue is the recent conviction of a father and son who were found guilty of participation in the killing of a man of color. One can only guess the type of conversations they had at the family’s dinner table when both decided to commit the crime and no one raised an opposing point of view. That sounds like a one way conversation to me, one coming from a position of power.
I still remember a hilarious incident many years ago at a debate in our High School Literary Academy. We were in our senior year and the priest in charge of the Academy used to provide us with different subjects to discuss. Some of us would eventually become lawyers, journalists and politicians and could use that early training in our careers.
As one of our members was making his opinion to the audience, another one, obviously in jest, made this comment: “! Flush the toilet!” Bedlam broke up. The offended student jumped furiously at his critic and we had to separate them to avoid physical injury. The priest wasn’t too happy.
So, let’s tango together and start a real dialogue where our voices are from a chorus and not from one mouth. And let’s make sure that the members of that chorus have equal opportunities regardless of their gender, their origin, their language and accents, their political and sexual orientations, their economic and intellectual levels. That will assure us that our monologues will remain unsaid, unacknowledged, and useless. Humankind is a cooperating communication specie, not a selfish event. Let’s make that behavior part of this year’s resolutions.
And that’s really my conversation Point of View today. No flushing!