Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Shouting at People

I sometimes post on here about how I essentially make a sport of arguing with jerk and morons online. It's half-in-jest, I do treat it like a sport but my anger that someone on the internet is wrong is all too embarrassingly real.

What I don't do anymore is go after people for the way they've chosen to express themselves. At least, I hope I don't do that. We live in a world with a lot of different people and they express themselves in different ways. If someone has an idea to get across then I'm interested in the idea, not in how they tried to get it out there. Sometimes if I honestly misunderstand someone I will explain what it was about their expression that caused the misunderstanding. Sometimes when someone is attracting a lot of anger because of how they chose to express themselves I'll give them a hint that their manner of expression, and not their content, is the problem.

What I don't want to do is say, in the words of Voltaire, "I agree with your opinion but I will fight to the death the way you said it." If someone wants to hire me as a communications consultant, that's fine, but otherwise I can let them say what they want to say without providing my unsolicited advice.

Which brings me to a person who expresses things very differently that I would. They swear at people and laugh at people. They call people names. When someone says something stupid, they are a lot more likely to say, "Hey, that's stupid" than I am and a lot less likely to try to break the whole issue down to make a rigorous point.

I don't enjoy reading posts by this person, I often feel they've been mean, I sometimes feel they are escalating the conversation into a fight. I am also very glad they are doing it.

Philosophy is, apparently, the malest, whitest subject you can study, and I am definitely a philosopher. Sure, I'm a problem child of philosophy, a rebellious one, but if my discourse exists in opposition to philosophy then it is still defined by philosophy. I turn logic and fallacies back on the people who use them, but they are still fundamentally the things I deal in. I talk to other people from within a very narrow set of rules about how we are supposed to talk that excludes the ideas of a huge number of people.

So while I may be tempted to think, "Oh, don't get angry, that's not the most effective way to win out in this situation," I am really trying to impose my own internal process on that person. In reality people say and do things that make sense to be angry about.

When I read this commenter's posts, I find myself put off by their manner of expression. But at the same time I stomach that manner of expression long enough to get the point they are making, and they have some very good points. It's nice because it makes me more confident that when other people are being jerks I'm not dismissing them simply *because* they are jerks, but rather I'm able to see past that.

It's good practice to not try to police other people's tone when I should be trying to understand them and address what they are actually saying. And sometimes using a different manner of expression allows someone to make a point that they just never could have made if they wrote and spoke the way I do. I like hearing other people's ideas.

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