This first appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer
"A bore is a person who talks when you wish him to listen."
- Ambrose Bierce
In business, selling your message is best done by first placing yourself in another person's shoes -- i.e. employing empathy. Problem is, most people bring their own (lack of?) brains and life experience with them, leaving little room for understanding. The result is nothing learned and a crowded pair of ill-fitting shoes.
Nowhere better is this illustrated than in the national kerfuffle over using the term Redskins as an organizational symbol. From the National Football League team in Washington, D.C., to Neshaminy High School in Langhorne, people are asking, is this usage racist?
For the most part, despite passionate pleas from those feeling dishonored, the polls, including ones taken of those identifying themselves as Native Americans, show that many consider the redskin moniker to be harmless.
As a standard bearer for the spineless, my opinion falls squarely on both sides of the issue. But it is not the issue as much as the method that's most intriguing here.
Here is what Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder wrote in his letter explaining to fans his understanding of the issue:
As loyal fans, you deserve to know that everyone in the Washington Redskins organization -- our players, coaches and staff -- are truly privileged to represent this team and everything it stands for. We are relentlessly committed to our fans and to the sustained long-term success of this franchise.
That's why I want to reach out to you -- our fans -- about a topic I wish to address directly: the team name, Washington Redskins. While our focus is firmly on the playing field, it is important that you hear straight from me on this issue. As the owner of the Redskins and a lifelong fan of the team, here is what I believe and why I believe it.
Like so many of you, I was born a fan of the Washington Redskins. I still remember my first Redskins game.
Most people do. I was only 6, but I remember coming through the tunnel into the stands at RFK with my father, and immediately being struck by the enormity of the stadium and the passion of the fans all around me.
I remember how quiet it got when the Redskins had the ball, and then how deafening it was when we scored. The ground beneath me seemed to move and shake, and I reached up to grab my father's hand. The smile on his face as he sang that song... he's been gone for 10 years now, but that smile, and his pride, are still with me every day.
That tradition -- the song, the cheer -- it mattered so much to me as a child, and I know it matters to every other Redskins fan in the D.C. area and across the nation.
Our past isn't just where we came from -- it's who we are.
Two hundred ninety-eight words later, we all understand why the use of redskin couldn't possibly be racist. I hope every Native American offended by Washington's nickname and who doesn't think Snyder truly grasps their feelings, read that statement. (For the sarcasm-challenged, the preceding two sentences were sarcasm.)
Now, let's hear how the majority of kids on the editorial staff from Neshaminy High's school newspaper, "The Playwickian," dealt with their decision to no longer use the R-word. Their editorial said:
It is one of the most controversial issues in Neshaminy's history. It is a topic that no one wants to discuss, but one that needs to be discussed. It is Neshaminy's nickname, its mascot, its pride. The Redskin, Neshaminy's longtime moniker, has come under fire from community members for its racist origins and meaning time and time again, all to no avail. Many, if not most, community members and students have shown that they do not wish to have the nickname changed; some don't find it racist (quite the opposite, they think it honors those indigenous to the area), others just want to maintain the tradition. The Playwickian has come to the consensus that the term Redskin is offensive.
Opposite beliefs, for sure, but more fascinating, a distinct difference in how each considers the other side's viewpoint.
This is not about which side is right. This is a lesson on how to approach differences. In this case, the Neshaminy kids took into consideration the opposing view.
The billionaire NFL owner is just a bore.
Steve Young is the author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful" (www.greatfailure.com(