Issue #267 / December 2023

Could you point out three single words that you like the most and explain why?


A New Year’s resolution?


Dear Saverio and Ellen,

Three of my favourite words, and ones I find myself using more and more these days, are ‘Having said that’. I am also fond of saying ‘On the other hand’, and Seán O’Hagan tells me that the word I use most in our book, Faith, Hope and Carnage, is ‘However’.

I like all of these phrases because they acknowledge one point of view but also tender another, they preface the presentation of a stabilising counterargument. This is something not much liked in our contemporary culture, it is unpopular on social media that trades primarily in a currency of performative moral outrage. ‘Having said that’ is the bothersome and deflating enemy of polarisation, self-righteousness, intolerance and hubris.

But as the world divides into its various factions, these are words that are increasingly important. Difficult as it can be, I try my best to apply them by questioning my own thoughts – what actually is the argument from the other side? In doing so I have found that there are very few disputes, conflicts, disagreements and ideas that these three unassuming words can’t help to mediate by broadening and strengthening the conversation. Some may feel they are the undermining opponent of conviction, hostile to progress and action, but they are not. These three small words give conviction its sense of humanity and prevent it hardening into a blinkered and uncharitable stringency. ‘Having said that’ is the precondition of empathy, it is the capacity to see and understand the other side, to show that we have the necessary willingness to hold two contrasting ideas in our hand at the same time.

And so, Ellen, my resolution for the coming year is to practice, as best as I can, more open-mindedness and understanding of other viewpoints. I wish both of you, and all readers of The Red Hand Files, the very best for 2024 and may happiness and good things come your way.

Love, Nick


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