To the marginalized and silent 99%: You have something of value to contribute.

I recently snatched up a $1 offer for access to a huge amount of content within an online writers group for 30 days and I’ve been DEVOURING it. The first day, I listened to a podcast interview with Albert Y. Hsu (pronounced “shee”), a senior editor with InterVarsity Press. Based on the description of the interview, I wasn’t sure if the content would be for me, but one teaser stood out:

“What publishers look for in an author’s platform (and it’s different than you think!).”

What PUBLISHERS look for wasn’t what drew me in, it was the WHY. I was hoping that the WHY would give me insight on how to identify and reach people who are interested in learning and practicing the communication methods I teach. And while I’m not currently writing a book that I want to pitch to a publisher, I do recognize some parallels between being an author and being a teacher: we both want to reach, inspire and help people.

Below are some quotes from the interview that I was still thinking about the next day – so much so that I re-watched the video in order to capture them and continue working through the answers:

“Part of what we do as authors, is that we meet people where they’re at and then we take them somewhere else. Take them further. There has to be a point of identification, but there also has to be a point of dislocation. So we are both contextualizing; saying our words in a way that people can receive, but then we are also being counter-cultural and giving them something that doesn’t just reinforce what they already know. It has to take them another step.”

This is huge for me in consulting and coaching. I ask a LOT of questions and – based on the answers – I ask more questions. Sometimes clients get impatient and want to skip this part of the process, but I have to start with where they ARE – and what led them to where they are – before I can help them explore options for their next best steps.

“Who is the audience and what are the channels to GET to that audience?…If you don’t have a channel to that audience, it’s almost like those readers don’t exist.”

How do I reach people? I’ve learned I have to meet them where they are. Forget the “if you build it they will come” mentality. That only works for ethereal baseball games and Disney.

“What do I have to offer that other people don’t. What’s missing?”

And look who just showed up. Imposter syndrome, my old friend.

In answering the question, “What would you tell first time authors?” he said, “I often ask them, ‘What’s your thing? What are you known for?'”

What’s my “thing?”

I know I’m passionate about communicating well. Effectively, respectfully and empathetically. I genuinely believe that the world would be a MUCH better place if we consistently tried to say what we mean without BEING mean. There would be less division, more respect and comradery and relationships would be stronger.

I think I’m known for that. but I’m not sure.

I’m also not sure who is interested in strengthening their communication skills or how to reach them.

After listening to this podcast, I had a tiny little epiphany. Am I having trouble finding these like-minded people because they are so quiet?

I have to remind myself again and again of the 1% rule:

“The 1% rule states that the number of people who create content on the Internet represents approximately 1% (give or take) of the people actually viewing that content. For example, for every person who posts on a forum, generally about 99 other people are viewing that forum but not posting.

And the internet population is only 40% of the world population.

But the 1% is so freakin pervasive.

On a daily basis, in every nook and cranny of the internet, I’m inundated with language that dehumanizes, mocks, dismisses, creates division and feeds polarization.

It seems like everywhere I look, language is used as a weapon to bludgeon someone.

Do the people doing the swinging genuinely not recognize the damage they inflict? Do they just not care? Are they oblivious to how they are perceived?

For instance, a facebook friend posted about the cruise ship that wasn’t being allowed to dock during the Covid-19 quarantine, sharing her disapproval of the passengers for even getting on the boat in the first place. But she backtracked pretty quickly when another facebook friend commented to tell her that a couple they both knew were stuck on that ship.

When “those people” became people she knew, she DID care how she was perceived.

Another commenter, not so much:

“I may be a jerk but they knew the risks…. stay on the ship. 🤷🏼‍♀️”

I held myself back from adding to the snark by replying with: “Well, you got one thing right. And how could they have known?”

I held myself back. Because if I had called her out like that in front of her friends,

1. I would be a jerk.
2. She probably wouldn’t care, because when I looked up that emoji she ended with, I found this:

The person shrugging emoji can designate ignorance, indifference, self-acceptance, passive-aggression, annoyance, giving up, or not knowing what to make of something. It could also be a visual form of the one-word response of indifference, “whatever.”

So here’s my take. When this person led with “I may be a jerk” she KNEW she was being a jerk. And she posted it anyway. I don’t know this person, but this is the first impression she made

1. with me and
2. with all the other commenters on that thread, and
3. with all the friends of the original poster and
4. with all the friends of every other commenter.

Because that’s how facebook works.

But I digress.

My thing. Being passionate about communicating well.

Who needs what I have to offer?
I believe everyone could benefit from strengthening their communication skills. I’ve been studying and practicing communication methods for decades and I’m still learning and growing.

But who wants what I have to offer?
The 1%?
Maybe.

What about within the other 99%? What “channels” should I use to reach them?

Looking at local, in person and possibly off-the-grid people, I already know some first steps to figure out who is interested: networking, public speaking to special interest groups, continuing with the consulting, training and coaching I already do…but moving beyond that…

Talking through my thoughts with the hubs:

“I’m wondering if one reason I’m having such a hard time [identifying people I can help] is because they are so quiet. Are they hidden in the 99%?

If 60% of the population isn’t even active on the internet and of the remaining 40%, only 1% is posting, then we’re talking about a fraction of that 1% who don’t seem to care whether they add to the negativity in the world.

I know so many people who, in real life, seem so kind and gracious. Then they get behind a keyboard, post a passive aggressive remark and sit back to watch and stir up the $#!+storm they’ve created.

Do they not recognize what they’re doing? Do they not care?

I genuinely don’t understand the duplicity.

And I don’t think I ever will. But I think that for the first time, I do understand those are NOT my people. They aren’t interested in communicating well or how they are perceived. When they post something that tears down, they either don’t know, don’t care or don’t care that they don’t know. I don’t comment on their negative posts because it’s pretty clear I would be the odd man out. WAY out.

The comment threads are full of 1%ers. The 99%ers are quiet. We all know that if we counter-comment on a negative post, one of three things will happen:

1. We’ll get attacked and it won’t be pretty.
2. We’ll be covertly blocked from their posts in the future.
3. We’ll get unfriended.

Maybe the people in the 99% are staying quiet because they’re taking a look at what’s being posted and instinctively responding with: “Hard pass.”

So, while the 1% may be the loudest, it’s definitely not overflowing with people who want to be intentional about communicating well. Those are the people I’m looking for.

Are they all in the silent majority?”

Hubs, after listing to my rambling stream of consciousness thought process: “You need to work on this some more. You’re onto something, but you’re not there yet.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Hubs: “A cow has four stomachs.”
Me: “So…what? I’m on stomach #2?
Hubs: “I love how you knew what I was talking about.”

So is my thing metaphors? I do love metaphors.

And so I continue to work on it.

I remembered something else Albert Hsu said in the podcast:

“We don’t write apologetics books for the non-christian. They’re not going to pick up a Christian book. We write the book for the Christian friend…to serve them to reach their friend.”

Translating that to helping people strengthen their communication skills: I can’t help people who don’t care that they use language as a weapon. I can help the people they hurt – to respond effectively, respectfully and empathetically.

I can help those who DO care about the impact of their words and those who are silent, not because they have nothing of value to contribute, but because because they feel marginalized. If I can find them, I want to equip some of the 99%ers to become effective peacemakers, to model respectful debate and to resolve conflict empathetically.

And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, some of the negative 1%ers will notice. and begin to care.

Who Sent the Stronger Message at the 2018 Tony Awards? De Niro? Orin Wolf? or the Audience?

Some might say De Niro sent the strongest message. From the looks of the internet on June 11th, he got more attention than ANYTHING else that happened at the 2018 Tony Awards the night before.

If you searched “Tonys” on Monday morning, google auto suggested “Tonys De Niro” and if you clicked on google images you were deluged with scowls and fists in the air.

Of course, the images immediately flooded my mind with childhood memories of Burgermeister Meisterburger.
(in the words of Dr. Raymond Stantz, “I couldn’t help it. It just popped in there.”)

De Niro’s words were bleeped in many of the videos and redacted in print,
but I was watching live and I knew what he said the moment he said it:

“Me. Me Me Me Me. ME!!”

Never mind who won a Tony.
Never mind the multiple phenomenal performances by the nominees.
Never mind the talent or music of Bruce Springsteen, whose performance De Niro was on stage to introduce.
Not a single award or performance garnered more internet real estate than Robert De Niro on the the morning of June 11, 2018.

You can’t buy that kind of publicity.

But there were two other messages from the Tony Awards that hit home for me.

It’s been a week and I’m still thinking about

the juxtaposition of this…

The Acceptance Speech by Orin Wolf, Producer of The Band’s Visit
(2018 Tony Award Winner for Best Musical):

“Music gives people hope and makes borders disappear. Although the characters are strangers to each other with great political divides, our show offers a message of unity in a world that more and more seems bent on amplifying our differences. In the end, we are far more alike than different and I’m so proud to be part of a community that chooses to support that message.” [emphasis added]

The response of the audience? 6 Seconds of Spattering Applause

and this:

Robet De Niro, (who was on stage to introduce Bruce Springsteen singing a poignant rendition of My Hometown):

“I’m going to say one thing, F— Trump,” with his fists in the air. “It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s f— Trump.”

The response of the audience? 28 Seconds of applause, cheering, whistling and a sustained standing ovation by nearly every audience member from multiple camera angles.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m thinkin Orin Wolf didn’t hurriedly scribble his acceptance speech in his seat as a response to De Niro hijacking the microphone. I believe Wolf thoughtfully prepared that speech and intentionally wrote those words to express what he believed to be true.

For the most part, the 2018 Tony Awards were a short and welcome reprieve from the bludgeoning of “a world that more and more seems bent on amplifying our differences.” Hosts Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles were clearly focused on honoring excellence in Broadway theatre:

“…our job throughout the night is…to celebrate all the people in that room, who put in all their effort eight times a week and deserve to be there for all the right reasons. We’re focusing on that positive energy and all the ways that theater can bring people together.” Josh Groban

And it appeared they were succeeding.

Until.

What happened in that span of 28 seconds?
Did the applause and cheering of hundreds of people turn Wolf’s gracious words into a crumbled facade and him into a naive idealist patronized by frauds?
or did he expose their duplicity and momentarily shame them into silence?

Both of those possibilities are awful.

I’m thankful for the 1% rule of internet culture and pray that Monday morning’s tsunami of De Niro praising came from the loudest of the 1% and not the remaining 99%. I pray that the majority was silent because words failed them after witnessing people who seemed so gracious and accepting moments before, instantly pivot on a single word of vulgarity and belie their true thoughts and feelings while smiling. and cheering. and whistling. and applauding. on their feet. in support of a hateful polemic.

De Niro’s message was a selfish expression of hate. And it was loud.
Orin Wolf’s message was a call to unity, encouraging us to bridge “great political divides.”

But the message of that 28 second reveal stripped the audience of their credibility like a wizard behind a curtain.

It leaves me wondering who in the Tony’s audience that night is genuinely “part of a community that chooses to support that message” of unity?

and who is just acting?

the 1% rule. a minority with too much free time? or representative of the 99%?

Something has bothered me for a while. When someone says that a certain group of people “thinks” this or “says” that, where does the opinion of that group come from?

If it’s true that only 1% of people are “vocal” on the internet, (via posts, tweets, comments or blogs) does that really tell us what the quiet people are thinking? (I’m not claiming to be one of the quiet ones.)

1percentrule.svg

By Life of RileyOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Even if a person on the internet seems to be in line with my own thoughts on a subject, I rarely agree with the way they’ve stated it much less every nuance of their opinion. Often, there is no nuance, the stand is so extreme it forces polarized positions and the statements are surface level, oversimplified, sarcastic or trite.

The world is bigger than this 1%.

The issues are complex and I have a feeling a good chunk of the other 99% think much deeper than can be expressed in a tweet. So, they don’t tweet, they talk. and listen.

In person.

Where there are no trolls and the only seagulls are at the beach.

I don’t say “the left” does or says this or “the right” does or says that. Reformed, Arminian, Atheist, Evangelicals, straight, LGBT, Clinton/Trump “supporters”….whatever group label you can think of, remember the 1% rule.

“The 1% rule states that the number of people who create content on the Internet represents approximately 1% (give or take) of the people actually viewing that content. For example, for every person who posts on a forum, generally about 99 other people are viewing that forum but not posting.” [CLICK HERE to read the full wikimedia content on the 1% rule]

Given our propensity to get our information from the internet, it’s statistically probable that whatever opinion you hold about a certain labeled group and whatever reasoning behind that opinion is based on what 1% of the internet population thinks – and the internet population is only 40% of the world population.

The world is bigger than this 1%. We only think they represent the majority because they are the loudest and most visible.

The quiet people are thinking. And apparently, there’s more of them than we realize. I’m betting one of the reasons they are quiet is that they have no time or patience for the tic-tac-toe futility of the bickering that seems so prevalent on the internet today.

Thank God. Because there’s a LOT of intolerant and judgemental people on the internet who could use a day or two off the grid to regain some perspective.

#seepeople and #edify, because everybody is #justadifferentkindofbroken