TED Conversations

Phillip Beaver

Citizen, Humankind


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For the TED Community, "tolerance" is Insufficient: I propose "respect."

While “intolerance” is useful, its antonym is not. No one brooks tolerance.
In other words, each person is intolerant of tolerance: When it comes to his opinions, he requires respect.
The TED challenge is for members to offer respect for other opinion, and therefore, tolerance is insufficient.
Synonyms for “tolerance” include patience, sufferance, forbearance; liberality, impartiality, open-mindedness. The moment I recognize the other party is patient, suffering, or forbearing, my side of the dialogue changes to the weather, local traffic, the latest natural disaster, or such. If I detect any of the behaviors to the right of the semicolon, I become cautious and wait for a pertinent question by the other party.
When I meet someone, the most precious characteristic to me about them is their opinion and how they established it. However, I feel I have no right to ask questions about what is so precious to me: their opinion and background—often a very private treasure. Holding opinion private seems, in itself, an expression of opinion.
Therefore, in personal dialogue, I express my opinion and wait for the other party’s curiosity as to how I established it. In public forum, I share the opinion and background then wait for response.
One of the greatest acts of respect is to accept termination of the dialogue by the other party. Only they know why they stopped sharing. Perhaps they are locked in profound reflection. Each person is on a path of maturing psychologically, and each path is unique in time, direction, and depth.
What are the arguments for TED members to employ the word “tolerance” when “respect” is available?


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  • Sep 6 2011: Respect is relative to age and tolerance is norm.
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      Sep 6 2011: Does your message imply that young people are to be tolerated and old people respected?
      How does a young person feel when he senses he is being tolerated?
      Does it matter how a tolerated person feels about being tolerated?

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