Don’t forfeit your opportunities to influence others.
part 1: Dismissing alternative viewpoints doesn't strengthen your argument or your credibility.

Over and over, I see facebook posts by seemingly kind people instructing friends who [they perceive] believe differently than they do to “unfriend” them.

This week, I saw a post from an HR consultant on LinkedIn, declaring they would not work with anyone who [they perceive] believe differently than they believe.

I have more than a few problems with this increasing cancel culture reaction to diversity. And by definition, I believe the word diversity is accurate.

I included [they perceive] because

perception isn’t always accurate,
the issues facing us today are incredibly complex and
most people aren’t myopic simpletons.

1. Perception is subjective.

Our perception (a way of understanding or interpreting something)

is skewed by our

perspective (a particular attitude toward or point of view)

Consider the possibility that we have more in common that it may appear at first glance.

What if

people who believe and act differently than we do, actually want and value the same things but differ only in their strategies for pursuing those shared goals?

What if

people who believe differently than we do are intelligent and informed about facts, but differ only in their interpretations and conclusions about those facts?

What if

the labels we use to describe people who believe differently than we do actually dehumanizes them and prevents us from seeing them as unique individuals, much less understanding or empathizing with them?

What if

our perception of the “other guy” is wrong? What would we find out about them as human beings if we didn’t unfriend them or refuse to work with them?

2. When an issue truly is “clear” or “simple” there isn’t extensive controversy over it.

Time and time again, I see people completely disregarding conflicting ideas as invalid or irrelevant in their efforts to justify and validate their own view. I’ve said this before:

Dismissing alternative viewpoints doesn’t strengthen your argument or your credibility.

It weakens the first and erodes the second.

If our reasoning can’t stand on it’s own merit and stand strong against questions or counter arguments, it needs some work. And if our reasoning needs work, we might consider listening to the alternative viewpoints as a first step. Allowing them to challenge our assumptions and help us come to a deeper understanding of what we believe so we can explain it. Respectfully.

It’s so. much. easier to call someone by a label instead of by their name, to cut off communication with them and instead surround ourselves with the comfort and familiarity of people who think like us, but we can’t hear different voices if we block ourselves off from their source.

3. Disagreement doesn’t mean people are uninformed, uneducated, racist or brainwashed.

Statements like the ones below assume that people who hold alternative views about the causes of, and solutions to, the problem of racism are only listening to a few well known celebrities “instead of” rather than “in addition to” their friends – and to the alternative views of a significantly larger number of not so famous people with diverse backgrounds, education and credentials:

  • “…if you are listening to them instead of the black people in your life on a daily basis…You’re doing it wrong.”
  • “If you’re a white person…quick to post a video of a famous black person agreeing with you, but won’t read a book from a black person with a PhD in their field disagreeing with you, then you aren’t trying to learn, you’re just weaponizing black voices to confirm your own bias.
  • “If you genuinely want to be part of this conversation, please stop only listening to black voices that prove your white opinion right.”

What if

there are so many of these alternative voices, coming from so many sources, growing louder every day that it’s impossible for us NOT to hear, much less ignore them?

What if

these thoughts and opinions are not just coming from black celebrities but from all walks of life, from multiple socio-ecconomic classes and some with PhDs of their own?

What if

people aren’t just watching youtube video clips and sharing pithy word images?

What if

people are actually reading books, studies and articles – written by authors from both sides, listening to podcasts, interviews and debates AND having authentic, vulnerable conversations with friends who not only don’t look like they do, but also friends who don’t think like they do?

 

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.

say what you mean. don’t be mean when you say it.

facebook I dont want to see thisI cut waaay back on facebook over the last few months. Derisive sarcasm and hate were saturating my news feed, weighing and wearing me down.

As I tentatively become more active again, one of my new facebook practices is to select “I don’t want to see this” whenever I read a post declaring that something somebody said or wrote or tweeted “destroyed” something another person said, wrote or stood for. (or similar language)

These kind of smack-down statements are usually only true if you completely ignore or rule out every other aspect of a complex issue other than the one the destroyer targets.

“Destroyed” (and words like it) is the kind of inflammatory language that triggers pointless, unresolvable bickering. It doesn’t invite or facilitate open dialog. Rather, it takes the potential for conversation that might lead divisive people to discover common ground and crops it to a trite soundbite that ends in a period or an exclamation point, or worse yet – “BAM!”

If divisive issues were truly simple, there wouldn’t be so much controversy over them. #edify

“It is the mark of an educated mind
to be able to entertain a thought
without accepting it.” Aristotle

edify
Ephesians 4 29 Bible