CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In these times of uncertainty -- from our water contamination crisis to the home stretch of our legislative session to fears about the economy -- you may find yourself doubting a lot of things.
Let's face it: Our collective confidence has been shaken, and our foundations have been rocked. If you find you're more unsure lately, I'd say that's a normal reaction. If that sense of wavering continues for too long, however, you may want to take stock.
It just seems to me that we're more tentative these days. I'm not sure whether that stems from a desire to be more politically correct or just to save ourselves from the drama of confrontation.
Have you noticed this in your circles? There's something refreshing about standing up for one's principles. There's also a balance, though, and that's where it gets tricky.
Like the old saying goes, "Pick your battles." Sometimes it seems like there are just two speeds: bull in a china shop, and shrinking violet.
Of course, there's so much "real time" information circulating that we may not feel we're informed enough to render an opinion. After all, there may have been a breaking news report or a round of tweets we haven't seen.
That didn't stop the woman at the front desk of a business I visited last week, though. After exchanging initial pleasantries, she jumped right into a commentary on the newspaper headline on her desk, "Legislature may nix gun laws." She then related it to the recent verdict in the "loud music" trial in Florida. Now, there was a woman comfortable with her values and not afraid to share them.
And then there are the different backdrops that affect our discussions. I'll never forget the first time I visited my future husband's family and sat down at the dinner table. This group was definitely into spirited discussions! It was all very interesting. The trouble was, it was hard for me to follow several conversations at once, let alone weigh in on any one viewpoint.
What a contrast from the quiet dinners of my childhood with my sister. Dad was often working late, and Mom was busy in the kitchen, so we only had one conversation going -- if that. Not good, bad, right or wrong -- just different. And that has colored my perspective.
Now, when things get too spirited for my taste with the extended family, I just state that I can't follow it all. They're more than happy to oblige me -- since it's not something they even recognize because their patterns are so ingrained.
Better yet, I never have to wonder where anyone stands with the extended family discussions. And it's great that they don't take anything personally. They're wonderful debaters. When the discussions and the dinner end, nobody holds a grudge. It's just such a different way of communicating from what I experienced growing up.
Fast-forward to the discussions we have today. Chances are, many of them are taking place virtually -- not in person but in quick snippets via emails, texts, tweets and posts.
The texture can be lost with the absence of body language, eye contact and tone of voice. This is actually one of the biggest challenges, whether it occurs in the workplace or on the home front. Message sent isn't always message received.