To Respond Well is to Sometimes Not Respond at All

Colleen Condon

This is dedicated to my parents who taught me how to be a strong and powerful woman with my own opinions but who also taught me how to listen. My mom is one of the smartest women I know and was raised in a family full of men. Yet, she has never been one to step down from what she believes in. At the same time, she is one of the best listeners I know. She has large amounts of sympathy and is consistently willing to go through the motions and listen to other people. My dad has shown me the example of what it is like to have civil discourse with others and be open to others’ opinions. My dad has single handedly become more open and changed his opinion to many thought processes and other things in my lifetime. It inspires me to grow and get better each day, knowing there are parts of me still left to be discovered.

I also dedicate this to the prominent women in public settings that inspire me to stand up and stand out for what I believe in. Particularly the USWNT who have been some of my greatest inspirations and people that I aspire to be similar to. Their hard work to advance women not only in the sports world but in life as well as show me how to handle situations calmly and positively.

Keywords: Listening, Learning, Patience, Understanding, Stasis

Discourse is all around us. In a world of social media where snap comments and judgements are made so simply, it is easy to make quick comments or respond out of anger online. The other person we are fighting with is not in front of us. We, the people who use social media, are able to make comments without being held accountable and can easily hide behind a screen. Our methods of rhetoric with technology are forever changing.

As a person who grew up as a strong-minded girl with parents who pushed me to say what I am feeling, I understand the battle all too well of knowing how and when to respond to others, how to respond to them and how not to respond to them. As a young girl, with a brother who would consistently taunt me, I would always be looking to snap back at him and others with what I thought was right. I would spew out information angrily and not think before I said things or look for information to back things up. At the same time, I was also very competitive so everything I said had to be better than others. As a young person with access to social media starting when I was 12, I fell into this trap online as well. I would respond to people who upset me or people who made me sad without thinking about mediating and considering their opinion or their side of the story. Yet I came to a point where I was just fighting with people online rather than listening or gaining anything beneficial about conversations we were having.

I am writing to people like me. The people who are passionate about their beliefs so much so they are quick to jump the gun because they are passionate about what they believe. I am also writing to the people who do not think about the impact of their words and do not take the time to read and listen to others. This is something that you can think about, work on and get better with. We all fall victim in some capacity to ignoring and moving through arguments without taking the time to think and discuss topics.

Without discourse in our society, there would be no issues between groups or people but at the same time without discourse, we would make little progress in society. We would miss out on a plethora of learning opportunities. Yet our current structure of conversations, many of which we have online, can quickly turn negative and lose the learning aspect, going into a deep hole of anger and unproductiveness. Using the ideas of stasis theory provides a logical pattern of discourse that allows room for listening and understanding rather than judgement and fear.

In the United States with the amount of freedom of speech we have, it is easy to respond to someone without knowing exactly what we are saying. Most recently, the topic of “fake news” and arguments about who is right and wrong have exploded and taken over news media. Although the concept has existed for a long time, people are using the newer term to discount news and reporting all while confusing common readers on what is real. “The Internet and social media have made it very easy to peddle and promote lies …. when people who have been exposed to lies are confronted with the truth, they often believe the lie even more strongly” (Zompetti 143). This quote touches on how many of us continue to perpetuate false information to confirm their own beliefs or because they do not care to hear the other side. People fall into the trap of confirmation bias and continue to argue with one another based on false claims and information. This rabbit hole shows the importance of logical discourse between parties with the least amount of bias as possible. Adding stasis theory can help organize these thoughts and not create as much animosity between parties. Using the principles of stasis theory significantly helps discourse become more successful between two parties, for example between Donald Trump and Megan Rapinoe, U.S. Soccer and the USWNT, or even people arguing online with one another. Using stasis theory can help formulate the conversation rather than a hostile and tense argument that ends up making people’s views more polarized.

Stasis theory is a rhetorical theory to engage with others and speak across differences. Stasis overall is defined as “The method by which rhetors in the classic tradition identified an area of disagreement, the point that was to be argued, the issue on which a case hinged” (Carter 98). Typically, questions were asked in a particular order and there was a formality to the procedure. Although the word stasis alludes to the idea of standing still, the idea focuses on two parties coming together and creating energy. Opposite sides come together to work together and progress forward rather than move backwards (Carter 99).

The overarching effects of people taking jabs at one another and not having peaceful discourse where both sides are being heard can be detrimental to relationships and can help feed into confirmation bias. The United States has a long history of its citizens having severe disagreements. Yet in the last 10-15 years, these disagreements have been heightened with the addition of social media. Social media provides a platform where one can comment immediately and anonymously and allows for people to quickly respond without the context of an in-person conversation. Most recently a study was conducted on the rhetoric shown and produced on the Twitter platform. Specifically relating to COVID-19, “The barrage of misinformation impacts health behavior and decision-making and, in the case of the current pandemic, can threaten the lives of individuals throughout the world” (Scannell et al. 456). The spread of misinformation combined with quick and easy comments not only have a profound effect on people through the lens of COVID-19, but also on a larger scale. The vast array of opinions on COVID-19 is unlike anything we have seen before in many of our lifetimes. Having calm, political discourse is one of the most challenging activities to do during that time. The differences in opinion became personal very quickly. Rather than people coming together to fight against this horrible virus, people were further apart with their words and actions, on top of the physical distance.

One issue that has taken the limelight in the last couple of years in the United States is women’s pay in sports, specifically the United States Women’s National Soccer Team. They have been the face of the movement in Women’s Sports, spearheading the movement by posting on social media, speaking out and bearing all the weight of the criticism. In the 2019 World Cup when superstar Megan Rapione was asked if she would be attending the White House, she responded with, “I’m not going to the f****** White House.” This sparked anger and rage among many, including the former president Donald Trump. He responded with a series of Tweets calling Megan the “purple haired girl” and alluding to the fact he didn’t believe that women should be getting the same equal treatment as men with many of his supporters jumping on the train. Most recently Trump attacked the players after they won Bronze at the Olympics saying, “Woke means you lose, everything that is woke goes bad, and our soccer team certainly has” (Beer and Solender). Making baseless claims on social media platforms has continued this frenzy that the women’s soccer team does not deserve as much as the men, despite winning the bronze medal, which is a better finish than the Men’s National Team.

Stasis theory can produce more cooperative discourse especially when one struggles with lashing out or responding too quickly. People such as myself can be quick to respond rather than taking in the information and thinking about it. Stasis theory can be used to spread knowledge and hear a side of an argument one may not have heard before. “During the exploratory phase, students use stasis to collect a wide range of data, including information about all of the people involved in the issue and their stakes in the process” (Brizee 378). Using this theory can help individuals come to new ideas, rather than making snap judgements. It helps with logically listening to what people are saying rather than judging. A person has time to reflect on the other person’s point and much more likely come to common ground even if they don’t completely agree. Focusing on different points and various ideas rather than who is to blame allows for proper discourse (Brizee 379). Why Megan Rapinoe may be offended by some of his comments? What does this mean for him, for the USWNT and the country as a whole? After this he could have addressed the quality: was what Megan said truly felt that way and responded to the reporter in that way. What should the procedure be of how to go about this in a more formal way.

We see Rapinoe use some of these skills in her speech after the United States Women’s Soccer Team won the World Cup in 2019. Even after she has been ridiculed, she still acknowledges the “other side” or U.S. Soccer who had not been completely supportive of the women in their fight for equal pay.

I think I’ll just end with this. This is my charge to everyone. We have to be better. We have to love more, hate less. We got to listen more and talk less. We got to know this is everybody’s responsibility, every single person here. Every single person who is not here. Every single person who doesn’t want to be here. Every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree. It is our responsibility to make this world a better place (Rapinoe).

Rapinoe additionally acknowledges the president of U.S. Soccer in her speech saying that she has faith in him and trusts he will do the right thing. She acknowledges that she may define how U.S. Soccer should be helping women differently than they do. He also acknowledges that it was not only U.S. Soccer’s responsibility to assist in their fight, but a global fight. Her speech comes off as easier, more inviting and not one-sided.

Opposing this idea of stasis theory, having a formal discourse may be more beneficial may seem very high level. It is argued by many emotional people that being emotional and going “off script” can be positive and may allow for more forward progress. At the end of the day people are still disagreeing and making things more formalized may not address a disagreement or more importantly, an agreement. Yet, my argument is not that people will come to an agreement, rather they can find commonality and not be so polarized by using a more formalized, understanding process. Disagreeing is important because it opens people up to new ideas but from our disagreement can come new knowledge if done properly.

Overall, stasis theory provides a logical pattern of discourse for people and keeps people on track rather than causing them to fall off and drown in disagreeing arguments. Think about one’s own arguments. Is it helpful to go back and forth with someone online? Is it a positive experience to have a screaming match? It is hard to go through the motions and stay calm and factual all the time. Interactions between Trump and Rapinoe, COVID-19 scandals, and Rapinoe’s speech about U.S. Soccer we can see the effective and ineffective ways that stasis theory can be used. All of these show the importance of proper disagreeing and listening. Stasis theory may not be perfect but provides a step-by-step process that can prevent us as a society from separating more and bring us together. It may help us realize we are not all that different like we can appear to be to one another.

Works Cited

Beer, Tommy. “Trump Calls U.S. Women’s Soccer Team ‘Leftist Maniacs’ and Blames Lack of Gold Medal On ‘Wokeness.’” Forbes, Accessed 4 Oct. 2021.

Brizee, H. Allen. “Stasis Theory as a Strategy for Workplace Teaming and Decision Making.” Journal of Technical Writing & Communication, vol. 38, no. 4, Dec. 2008, pp. 363–85.

Carter, Michael. “Stasis and Kairos: Principles of Social Construction in Classical Rhetoric,”Rhetoric Review, vol. 7, no. 1, 1988, pp. 97–112.

“Megan Rapinoe’s Inspiring Speech: ‘It’s Time to Come Together… We Have to Be Better….Have to Love More, Hate Less.’” LetsRun.Com, 10 July 2019,

Scannell, Denise, et al. “COVID-19 Vaccine Discourse on Twitter: A Content Analysis of Persuasion Techniques, Sentiment and Mis/Disinformation.” Journal of Health Communication, vol. 26, no. 7, July 2021, pp. 443–59.

Zompetti, Joseph P. “The Fallacy of Fake News: Exploring the Commonsensical Argument Appeals of Fake News Rhetoric through a Gramscian Lens.” Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric, vol. 9, no. 3/4, Alabama Communication Association, July 2019, pp. 139–59.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Feeling Rhetoric Copyright © 2022 by Colleen Condon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book