Fear is a powerful emotion. However, I do like the actual definition of the word: “An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that something or someone is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” My emphasis on “belief.” As to say, there doesn’t have to be a threat, only the perception of a threat. I’ve taken this nugget and tried to apply across any number of aspects of my life. As a father of three children, I do feel an obligation to interject that I do not believe the emotion of fear is to be wholly ignored. If your inner voice is telling not to balance on the edge of an an eight story building, then there’s probably plenty of empirical data telling you that is a healthy response.
However, in the context I intended; I consider myself a conservative, which is not much of a secret. I have spent a number of years viewing everybody that didn’t consider themselves a conservative as the “other side.” Which, despite my bemusing was not a reference to a supernatural geography. I’m not sure if it’s just getting older, or the fact that I’ve been married to one from the “other side” for so long, but I have come to understand why people that think differently than me believe what they believe. I don’t agree with them, but we got to a point of understanding each other. Obviously, in the case of my wife, I’d like to think that to be true as we approach our twenty-fifth anniversary this summer (shameless plug for brownie points intended).
Our strategy of beating the other side into submission has been the standard operating procedure of both sides of every issue for the last twenty years. We’ve lost the ambition to try anything to, instead, sit back and wait until the winds are blowing to our backs and then “we’ll show them how it feels.” All that said, there are contingencies of people that want, and do, get things accomplished. The results are often heralded as the evil “back room deals” because people weren’t allowed to bloviate and rail against it. So they’re are two components of fear at work: first, the people that embrace that there are no circumstances under which any ten people who gather in a room are going to agree on every single issue don’t want to (or fear) the blowback for trying to get things accomplished. On the other hand, you have people that are left out of the process altogether because of the perception (or, dare I say, “fear”) of those in the room that a person’s “my way or the highway” mentality doesn’t make for progress. So those left out of the conversation fear what they don’t understand…which is valid because they don’t know the full extent of what was theoretically decided.
Now, there are any number of ways that this applies to our own lives. Children have their punishment decided by parents who discuss it behind closed doors. Students feel like there is little, or no, real attention paid to their input regarding their school. Employees feel disconnected from management because regulations and restrictions seem to fall from the sky daily. How about members of a certain insurance company having to learn the restrictions on their most recent re-up on their “same policy.” “No Mr. Insurance Man, I did not take the time to read the new clause on page 131 of my benefits manual which changed the word ‘will’ to ‘may.'” All of these stem from a perceived absence of communication. And when we have an absence of communication, what’s the most logical response? Fear. And how that fear manifests differs dramatically in different people. Withdrawal, anger, resentment and revenge just to name a few.
Communication is instrumental, but effective communication is dictated by the recipient, not the provider. So we have to be aware of who we’re talking to as much as what we’re talk about. We won’t always have 25 years to figure our audience out so we have to be flexible in our conversation and steer away from the fear that people just don’t understand. Well, if we don’t, they may be on you not us.