Another person’s background may have led them to different conclusions than your own, but that doesn’t make their opinion less valid.
I always call Twitter the wild, wild west of social media. There are a few rules and regulations, but mostly it’s a whole lot of tweeters whose only purpose seems to be looking for things to fight about; and 140 character tweets leave a lot of room for misunderstanding. As a result, verbal duels happen all the time—especially if you happen to write about anything gender related.
As a teenager, I never ran from a fight. Well, that’s not entirely true, I tried to avoid physical fighting, but a good war of words was exhilarating. For people like me, who enjoy a good verbal battle, arguing is like a drug. The power and the authority that follows “winning” tastes oh so sweet.
The taste sours in your mouth when you fight with people you care about though. There’s no joy in backing your partner into a corner and no glory in shaming a child. Since getting married and having children, I’ve had to rethink my entire approach to arguing and I’ve learned two important things:
- You alienate people who could be your allies when you start a war of words.
- It’s possible to end a disagreement as friends—even on Twitter.
The key is to value everyone’s life and everyone’s experiences. Another person’s background may have led them to different conclusions than your own, but that doesn’t make their opinion less valid.
For example: on Twitter I’m followed by both feminists and men’s rights activists (MRAs)—two groups who often war with each other (and two who regularly criticize my work). The conflict between the two strikes me because, from where I sit, I can see that they are both arguing for the same thing: respect and validation. It’s the dismissal of the other perspective that ignites the flame.
So rather than trying to be the smartest or the loudest or the most insulting (which won’t do anything but create more fire), if you ever find yourself in a Twitter duel, you might consider doing the opposite: find something to agree with. I know, agreeing with the enemy sounds ridiculous. It sounds like selling out and trading your soul to the devil.
I get it; but stay with me.
You don’t have to agree just for the sake of agreeing because, yes, that would be selling out. But before jumping into a fight, look for the truth in what the other person is saying. It’s always there, no matter how small or wrapped in animosity it might be. There’s always a reason for an impassioned argument. Find it. Validate it. And the whole nature of your argument will change.
For example, this morning I tweeted this: Emotionally empowering boys and men makes life better for them and safer for girls and women. #truth
A snarky tweeter responded: When are mothers going to stop abusing their children? Do women need emotional empowering too?
I could have stood my ground and insisted that men need emotional empowering more than women. I could have looked up statistics and data to back up my argument. I could have started a war.
Instead, I agreed.
Because even though the purpose of my tweet was to build respect for the emotional experiences of males, I can still agree that females have emotional needs too. Any abuse is too much abuse and the truth is women do need to be emotionally empowered. Women suffer from bottling up their emotions too. I believe that and I can wholeheartedly agree without selling my soul.
Now, other arguments might be harder to validate. If someone tweeted me racist or misogynistic statements, of course I wouldn’t agree with their points. But, I can acknowledge their anger, or fear, or hurt – I can recognize that something about their past or present experiences have made them feel this way. This is their truth, at this moment in time, no matter how much I may disagree.
In the case of my Twitter exchange this morning, after a few more tweets where we both had the chance to explain our personal perspectives, the tweeter who wanted to duel started following me instead. He complimented me, retweeted several of my tweets, and I made an ally instead of an enemy.
Everyone has value. Everyone’s experiences and perspectives matter. Find the truth in what others are saying. Provide affirmation or ask to learn more about their worldview. The acute anger almost always disappears, making room for empathy and more understanding.
Photo: Getty Images
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