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Other Voices

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Two weeks ago on Gleeman and the Geek, Aaron Gleeman and I argued about Francisco Liriano. In Liriano's previous outing he had struck out 15 batters but lost the game when he gave up a grand slam in the fourth inning. Aaron chaffed at the portrayal of Liriano as "mentally weak" while I felt that Liriano, at the very least, had trouble pulling himself out of a nosedive when he started struggling.

Anyone who listens to the podcast knows that Aaron and I arguing some perceived point into the ground is not unusual. What you may not know is that after shows, or even on the breaks, we often turn to each other and wonder what the hell we were really arguing about. And we often conclude that we werenít really arguing with each other at all. We were arguing with Other Voices.

In this case that became apparent around the 25:00 minute mark when Aaron refers to a story about the game. I didnít even know that story existed. When he was arguing, he wasnít arguing with me; he was arguing against that story. He was arguing with Other Voices that werenít in the room. For that matter, so was I, only I was arguing with voices Iíve argued with for a decade. Those voices were arguing that player performances are dice throws, randomly determined like stratomatic cards. That wasnít Aaronís point at all. But I was listening to the Other Voices.

Hereís the thing: I think Aaron and I see eye-to-eye on Liriano. Weíve had conversations where we are completely in sync. Aaron was fighting a fight he is accustomed to fighting and I was doing the same. We ended up at odds and then wondered what the hell we were arguing about. In my mind, one thing was certain: it wasnít about Lirianoís mental or emotional stability when it came to pitching. Which was, of course, what the argument was supposedly about.

I've seen more and more of this, just become I'm becoming more sensitive to it. Itís even more common in an oral medium where one canít parse ones words quite as much, cover oneís tracks in a well-written argument. And that also means it is becoming more obvious on Twitter and message boards, where brevity is required.

And Iíve seen it a lot over the past 48 hours since the Liriano trade. I wonder how often our reaction to something like that is based more on battles we are accustomed to fighting versus Other Voices than objective evaluation. I even wonder if we shift our evaluation to find room for our voices amid the din, like a youngest sibling finding the niche his older brothers havenít covered.

I donít know that there is a lesson to be learned here. Itís just something Iím noticing. And as much as seeing that behavior in others bothers me, itís even worse when I find myself not being full present, distracted or even driven by Other Voices.
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  1. pogofan's Avatar
    I donít know that there is a lesson to be learned here.

    There absolutely is a lesson to be learned here, John, though as a non-listener to your podcasts (who has time?), I can only take your word for it that it applies to you. The lesson is, "Seek first to understand, and then to be understood," or in other words, "Really take the time to listen before you talk." Our country would be far better off if all our discussions about politics and public issues followed that guidance! Whether you and Aaron follow it isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things, of course, but if you want to strike one little blow for better dialogue in American society, I recommend keeping sentences like "I'm not sure I followed that; can you run it by me again?" close at hand.

    Thanks for another of your always-thoughtful posts.
  2. Wade Mobley's Avatar
    I really appreciated your post, then committed the same error later that day.
    Slow to learn, I guess.
    It's not that our individual contexts define truth or make it impossible for us to communicate, but that our individual contexts color our own thoughts and commentary. The wise communicator evaluates his context before he discusses, then discusses wisely.
    Thanks for your insightful writing.
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