THE BLOG
10/30/2010 07:08 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Few Extra Thoughts About Sanity

In Jon Stewart's "moment of sincerity" he said a few words that we should carry into next week and far beyond: "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."

This is easier said than done, of course, when the press magnifies trivial and hateful events. It's difficult to be objective when the media we rely on for information is irresponsible. As Stewart said, "Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams or Rick Sanchez is an insult not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort to hate." And similarly, "not being able to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more."

The images reflected back to us by the media are often false, as Stewart said. "It is us through a fun house mirror." If the images conveyed to us were true, sanity might have a chance.

Humor not aside but beside these images, Stewart made the point that people cooperate everyday "concession by concession" on the roads, entering tunnels thinking "you go and then I'll go." Selfish people are the rare ones.

Sanity does require calming ourselves down so we can hear each other and appreciate the level of cooperation we enjoy each day. It's important to point out, too, that sanity requires a staunch unwillingness to let the press get away with introducing news, for example, with the words, "Some people say" to which an opinion advocated by the owners of that station follows. This isn't responsible journalism.

If we're going to truly restore sanity, we need to learn to communicate more effectively, to persuade with credible support for our assertions and to expect the same of those who wish to persuade us. We can't allow ourselves to be tricked into thinking that just because something is shown or said on a news show it has to be true. And we need to teach our children this.

Sanity depends on the ability to debate without disdain and to respect other people's views. It requires of us a willingness to do the work necessary to support what we say with more than a louder voice or fancier graphics than those who disagree.

Persuasion is something we do WITH, not TO people. I wrote that sentence years ago in my first book and nothing has changed. Persuasion at its best is about linking other people's ideas with our own. We can only do that if we hear what those people have to say.

Restoring sanity doesn't mean the end of passion but rather an appreciation for arguments that are well formed and well supported whether they are consistent with our own or not.

Kathleen's latest book is COMEBACKS AT WORK and she blogs at bardscove.