The Transylvania Times -

The Power Of Words

 


The New Year carries with it the promise of a fresh start, the opportunity to set aside any disappointments from previous years and refocus on what we want to achieve. Almost all of us have something we hope to accomplish – spending more time with family, losing weight, saving money, reading more – and we sincerely hope all of our readers find success in their endeavors during 2016.

If you have any room left on your list, consider adding one more goal: when you write something in 2016, whether it’s an email, a social media post, or a letter in our Opinions of the Readers, remember that the written word has the power to do both tremendous good and terrible harm.

This may seem like a strange request, but in a nation where political divisions run strong, it’s important to be aware that our public forums provide us with an incredible opportunity to educate each other about our thoughts and beliefs. Nowhere is this truer than in a community newspaper, where people of all political persuasions share the same public forum.

Every time you send a letter to the Opinions of the Readers, you have the chance to reach people whom you’ve never met, and to help them understand your thoughts and ideas. It’s a pretty remarkable opportunity.

Unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of the written word is that it’s easy to get absorbed in your own thoughts, and to forget that you’re writing about real people, or about ideas and beliefs that people hold dearly.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in social media. Disrespectful and offensive posts are commonplace, and writers often say things on social media that they would never say in person. Admittedly, an angry rant can be satisfying to write, and the spectacle of responses can be irresistible to watch. But on the downside, sarcastic rants foster mistrust and anger, rather than mutual understanding.

It may be harder to write well-reasoned, informative letters than to vent your rage, but it’s hardly impossible.

When confronted with those who do not share your beliefs, make it your goal to explain your position, not to belittle or offend. Beware condescension and sarcasm; they tend to breed resentment. Assume the best about people – that they’re intelligent, ethical and hard working – even if they don’t share your opinion.

And last but not least, verify your facts. Just because you read it on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. And if it seems hard to believe – the magic fact that proves you’re absolutely right beyond all reasonable doubt – odds are, it’s too good to be true. At the very least, it’s worth double-checking.

We don’t expect or want our readers to lose the strength of their convictions or their senses of humor, nor do we want the Opinions of the Readers to read like a textbook. We merely encourage people to temper their passions with compassion, and to treat each other with mutual respect. Although we may be unable to achieve consensus in 2016, we can always strive to foster tolerance and understanding.

 
 

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