Alternate Title: If life was a video game then “communication” would have the most complicated and extensive skill tree.
Honestly, I’m unsure of how to do the intro for this one.
Essentially, I get this notion that in every community there are people that avoid conflict and also others who are quick to engage and assert a certain perspective. And I think it has less to do with the community itself (although sometimes it can be a catalyst) than the fact that all communities have people and many people are problematic. Even more so if there’s a special ability called “anonymity.”
Anyway, I think these two groups are just two ways of dealing with the same problem. I say this because there’s a belief that you shouldn’t say the “wrong” thing. Especially if it’ll cause conflict. However, not everyone understands the wrong thing and or even views it as so. Because of this, at best, we have people who tend to think they’re doing right by avoiding conflict and other people that think the right action is to risk conflict by challenging what they deem to be problematic.
What is Communication?
If I was on the level of WaitButWhy, I would break down humanity’s need for communication and how it serves us. Or maybe I could go for something philosophical like The Egg and insinuate it’s how we learn and evolve into a higher being.
Instead, I have this to say: communication is simply an exchange of data. It can be opinions or facts, emotional or logical, but it’s about transferring information.
We all live on this planet and have to make do with what we got. This often involves interacting with other people. And by the nature of life, everyone has their own unique experience, beliefs, and preferences.
Now on its own, that last sentence isn’t inherent trouble. But because we live in a society, the difference in those three factors can easily lead to superficial and real trouble.
To say something or nothing at all…
As I’ve suggested a few times on this blog, I think of life as a balancing act between yourself and the rest of society. Well, part of the balancing act relies on how you choose to interact with others, especially when their perception of the world challenges or risks yours.
When it comes to communication, there’s unlikely to be a one-size-fits-all method that works in all circumstances. However, that doesn’t mean people don’t still form a preference for certain behaviors.
As someone who doesn’t like and avoids conflict, these are some popular perspectives I’m aware of and often take into consideration:
- Not everyone is effective or even tries to be considerate of other Points of View. If one party (or everyone involved) assumes they’re absolutely right, then it becomes challenging to have a productive discussion, let all alone resolve conflict.
- You’re not sure it can be worth it. Even if the situation might likely end well, is it worth the time and effort to dedicate to it?
- Even though every moment is technically a new one, confirmation bias has us expecting things to go bad. Confirmation bias is the tendency to believe things that support your already existing beliefs. So, multiple occasions where communication went wrong can push you to think most future experiences will be like that.
- There’s no obligation. Unless you’re in a specific situation, like you’re a couple therapist who is being paid to offer insight at this very moment to your clients… chances are you don’t have to address whatever conflict is going on. And “keeping your head down” can be effective.
That being said, I’ll like to reiterate that there is no singular answer that will work for everyone in all situations. I’m sure you can imagine a few scenarios where the perspectives in that list, would be obsolete or ineffective depending on the precise situation and “goals” at hand. I’m just trying to offer some insight into one side of the coin.
I think oftentimes, the other side of the coin is painted as combative and a destroyer of peace. But, I want to point out that addressing a concern you may have is not outright combative. And being worried, frustrated, or enraged about what someone says or does, also doesn’t make you problematic. That being said, yes, sometimes people do come across or deliberately engage in a way to enforce their perspective. Explanations I’ve seen include:
- Been there, won’t stand for it. The current situation reminds the person of a previous experience and so they step in because they know what it’s like to deal with it.
- No way. That’s just outrageous. It’s probably “stupid” and should be rejected and then dismissed.
- No excuses, shutdown on principle. Similar to the previous, but this is more in line to when a situation or topic is so “dangerous” that discussion is not “allowed” to take place.
Again, I want to point out that there’s not a right answer. Also, remember that outright combative can be beneficial and effective. It can throw people off and get them to pay serious attention.
Whether to Ostracize or Understand
[Another RT: It’s both amazing, puzzling, and terrifying how a difference in point of view can lead to drastic actions.]
I can’t tell you whether to ostracize or try and understand a person or situation more. Frankly, I think it’s often a case-by-case basis.
So, if you find yourself in a situation where you’re not sure how to proceed, remember that there’s always options. It’s just a matter of trying to find an option that works better than most of the others. Unfortunately, sometimes there isn’t an option that’s a “good” option. Honestly, that’s a part of life. We all lose sometimes.