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A call for empathetic dialogue

| Friday, April 11, 2014

Opportunities for conversation and dialogue are constantly available in many forums, especially on the Internet. It is incredibly easy to comment on a viral video, show symbolic cyber support by liking a status or jump into an argument about controversial issues.
However, when participating in any type of conversation — particularly in an online setting — it is vital to keep in mind that the gift of this connectivity must be utilized in a productive and respectful manner. It becomes dangerously easy to abuse the chance to type exactly what we feel when we believe we are protected behind a computer screen and the veil of anonymity offered by the Internet. It becomes especially sensitive when it happens in a relatively small campus community.
We are not suggesting the Notre Dame community should avoid arguments and fear conflicts. In fact, we urge everyone who feels passionate about something to speak out. Ask difficult questions. Research the topic, read up on the issue. Formulate your opinion, and maybe even write a letter. Make a genuine attempt to listen to and understand the other side of the story. Learn something.
We would like to challenge all those at Notre Dame to engage in dialogue in a way that is respectfully aware that those on the other side of the argument are fellow human beings and not just fingers on a keyboard or letters on a page. They are our friends, classmates and professors alike.
While it is easy to get caught up in the heat of a disagreement, we must not allow emotional responses to cloud our rationale. Likewise, we must not dismiss legitimate, well-grounded arguments as being merely the result of emotion.
When faced with an opposing perspective, it is convenient to focus on one potentially  problematic aspect of the argument, which consequently blinds us to the overall message. This sort of refusal to see beyond our own stubborn, one-sided position creates an insurmountable obstacle towards any future constructive conversation. A willingness to respond must also include a willingness to listen and to understand.
Whether we jump into a debate in the line at Starbucks or in the online comment section of a Viewpoint column, we must remember to approach any issue with a tone of empathy, awareness and respect, allowing room for neither unfounded animosity nor ignorance.
As part of our final editorial of this school year, we set forth the hope that all in our community will be willing to work together towards becoming informed, open-minded participants in all future discussions. More importantly, we ask our fellow students to remain conscious of the fact that people are much more than the title of the clubs they belong to, the positions they take on the issues that divide us or even the alias they assume online.
We all are challenged by our own experiences, and we are all too easily limited by our own perspectives and forget to appreciate the experiences of others
We all walk the same campus grounds each day. This weekend, we will once again unite as a campus to participate in the long-held traditions, including the Blue-Gold Game. We hope events such as these may remind us that, despite our differences, we are all bound by the history, tradition and strong sense of community that unites us as Notre Dame.


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