I gave a forestry talk last year at a Portland Rotary Club meeting, on behalf of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute. As a thank-you gift, I received a Portland Pearl Rotary coffee mug. Printed on the mug is Rotary’s Four-Way Test Of the things we think, say or do:
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
We’d all do well to keep the Four-Way Test in mind as we blog. Hey, it might also help if everyone involved in forest planning did, too.
9 thoughts on “Words to Blog By”
Nice post. But remember that much of what is posted here is in reality personal “opinions” and rarely facts.
And many facts (figures, acres, dollars, etc) that are hung out for us to see can be “facts” to the writer but may be seen differently by others…or refuted by other “facts”.
That is the challenge, discerning opinions from facts. And of course, being reasonably polite and non-threatening in our responses to those who we don’t agree with.
I think the concept that is often missing in arguments over “truth” or “facts” is “uncertainty.” As a science, silviculture has for too long ignored that there is little certainty. The surrounding fields, wildlife/biology, hydrology, and ecology itself all recognize that there is no certain truth, only tendencies, likelihoods, probabilities, etc. And it’s only going to get worse with global warming/climate change.
Sharon–the law is supposed to be able to parse the uncertainties. Sometimes it works, but often the process is contaminated by politics and judges who don’t take the time to understand the uncertainties.
Personally, I think the first one, “Is it the TRUTH?” is the most important, and I certainly make every effort possible to abide by that. As nice as the other concepts are, it’s an impossible task to be “FAIR to all concerned” or “BENEFICIAL to all concerned” in the context of a country of 316 million plus, or a world with 7 billion and counting. Sure, it’s a great idea to be polite to people, but it’s also a two-way street. For example, making false statements that cannot be back up with facts or the truth is also not very polite, at least that’s what great-grandma taught me and I heard in church.
Well, I’ve read a lot of appeals and legal documents (complaints) that are full of assertions that are unsubstantiated by facts, and sometimes with a snarky tone. I look at that as “part of legal culture” and not necessarily “impolite.” I know that federal agencies don’t get to be snarky back, even if some of the employees would want to.
Relevance, Sharon? Did I write those appeals or legal documents?
Matthew.. the relevance is
A. You said making false statements is not “polite.”
B. I said I see many false statements in legal documents (as an example) but rather than consider them “impolite” (their great-grandmas were not as effective as yours, and/or they didn’t hear it in church), I consider it an artifact of their culture.
C., It’s not relevant vis a vis your behavior. It’s relevant to the point that there can be different interpretations of the intent of the people who make false statements other than being impolite. I was using the most prolific source of misstatements that I ran into in my worklife as an example.
I hope this is a bit clearer.
Matt here is an example of “the most important facts or the truth” you posted earlier today: “William, In all your past 30 years of studying and documenting the timber activity on America’s National Forests have you ever come across anything that may have eluded to the fact that the logging levels of the late 1980s (which you apparently are using as a measuring stick) were 100% completely ecologically, environmentally and economically unsustainable?”
Matt, I gotta say that your hyperbolic pronouncements and personal opinions hardly qualify as “facts,” despite your defining them as such. I personally doubt that very few people anywhere would agree with your “100%” claim of incompetence and other non-measurable attributes, much less accept this stuff as “fact.” Even if you say it is. “The most important” thing is actual facts, using actual definitions of the word, and that’s the truth so far as I see it.
You are correct, I wrote a question to William over on this post. The question was:
I’m sorry, Bob, that you found my question to be a “hyperbolic pronouncement.” Perhaps if I removed the “100%” it wouldn’t read that way to you. The point I was attempting to get at with my question of William was if he was aware of any studies that found the high logging levels of the late 1980s on national forests were sustainable, or unsustainable, ecologically, environmentally and economically. Perhaps I should have better phrased that. The rest of what you wrote in your comment I find confusing, although I assume it’s directed at me.
There are some good resources out there concerning “ethical communication” or “ethical persuasion” – for instance:
“… eight guidelines for evaluating the degree of ethicality in argumentation and persuasion might be useful. (J.V. Jensen, Argumentation: Reasoning in Communication, (New York: Van Nostrand, 1981), Ch. 2.)
• A message should be accurate. It should stay within both the facts and within relevant context, and neither exaggerate nor make false claims.
• It should be complete. Although advocacy implies bias, it is necessary that all arguments be at least recognized. This also refers to the proper attribution of sources.
• Material should always be relevant. Superfluous information only serves to cloud the message.
• Openness implies that alternatives be recognized even if the intent of the message is to promote only one of them.
• The message should be made understandable through the minimization of ambiguity, avoidance of oversimplification, and distortion of accuracy.
• Sound reasoning should be in evidence containing only appropriate appeals to values, emotions, needs, and motives.
• Social utility should be promoted.
• Communicators should demonstrate benevolence through sincerity, tact, and respect for dignity.”