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Everyone’s Business:

Civil speakers prevail

September 30, 2009|By ROBERT PHIPPS

Hello, fellow Burbank folk. Some of you know me, or at least my words. I have written letters to the editor and spoken to the City Council numerous times over the past few years, opining about the Chandler streets and bikeway, the outdoor smoking ordinance, council behavior, water conservation, beautification of city streets and other things.

This is the first of a weekly Wednesday column, in which I will share my thoughts and feelings about political and business matters in Burbank. In reading letters and commentaries in the Leader, and hearing people speak to the City Council, I’ve learned that sometimes people, when they feel passionately about something, default to sarcasm, angry tone and name-calling. Lately, we have also been hearing the same thing happen nationally regarding health care. And while I know it feels good, I think it’s self-defeating.

I once confessed to my therapist that I occasionally hollered at my wife when she frustrated or angered me. (I was totally honest with him, and told him it was always her fault.) He said that between two people, if one hollers, he or she loses. Always. In court, with a cop, our boss, among friends or family; it doesn’t matter. Wherever we are, if others are around, the one who hollers loses.

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Hollering repulses people, offends them. Of its own bullying weight, it drives them to the other side. “Right” and “wrong” become irrelevant — it’s now about an aggressor and a victim, and most of us feel sympathy for a victim. The roles might actually be reversed. The hollerer might have true cause, but that doesn’t matter. In this case, as in so many others, perception is reality.

When my kids became teenagers, I would occasionally hear them swear. I wanted to encourage them to moderate their language. Knowing from experience that “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work, it occurred to me there was perhaps a more compelling reason than “being good” not to swear. I told them that when we swear, we stop thinking. All that derogatory terms say is that we don’t like the person (OK, we really don’t like them). They don’t say why. They don’t tell us anything about the other person or why we don’t like them.

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