Daily Archives: May 26, 2010

Verbal Warfare: do you engage in conflict?

Conflict is good in a novel.  However, I’ve been finding more and more of it on the internet.  Blogs and forums are filled with differing opinions.  Which, in and of itself, is good.  It allows us to learn other perspectives and understand things outside our limited views and experiences.

What isn’t good is when discussion crosses the line.  At times, I quietly lurk because I’m afraid of taking a shot to the face for writing the wrong thing.  It’s like a bad game of Nerf darts–one where you don’t know if your allies are your enemies.

In my real life, I wear many hats.  Almost all of them are in a conflicted arena.  I try very hard to impress upon my clients that they don’t have to agree.  They simply need to listen, understand and respect the other side.

I do this because I have learned the only universal truth in the world: there is no such thing as truth. 

Oh, we each have our own truths and we vehemently hang onto them.  But the reality is there are more opinions than there are people. 

In this respect, the writing arena has many truths.  One for each writer, and all based on personal experience and moral convictions.  Yet we continue to ask loaded questions, looking for the “right” answer.  And others continue to answer these questions with their own truths. 

Most often, people are respectful.  Yet every once in a while, a huge conflict arises.  The mob mentality takes over and we end up shooting darts at each other.  Feelings get hurt, things are said that can come back and haunt us and we leave communities we once loved.

I would like to offer a gentle reminder for myself and others.

  • Respect the other perspective.  This doesn’t mean we have to accept it.  We just have to accept that there are more versions out there than the one we currently believe in.
  • Listen and validate.  It  never hurts to say, “Hey, I can see your point.  I’ve never thought of it that way.”  Again, this isn’t agreement.  It is simple respect.
  • Agree to disagree.  “Those are all valid points, however, I still believe XYZ.” 
  • Hold a conversation, not a war.  When we exchange ideas, we grow as people–even if we never change our minds.  Just listening to and learning from others gives us depth and enriches our lives.  Warfare takes away from that.
  • Remain professional.  Seriously, this is vital for those of us commenting as writers or other industry professionals.  Do not engage in verbal warfare.  Do not name call.  Do not attack individuals.  Ideas are separate from the people who voice them.
  • Don’t let the conflict elevate our emotions.  If we find our hearts racing and our fingers itching to shoot off a response, we need to walk away and save our comments for another time. 
  • Lastly, don’t ever say, “It’s just common sense.”  There is no such thing as common sense.  What seems universal to one may be completely foreign to another.  That doesn’t make others stupid, it just means we all come to an issue with a different set of life experiences.

I don’t know if you’ve visited Layinda’s blog, but she’s a great one to ask questions that really make me go hmmmm.  I love reading her perspective and the responses she gets.  Better yet, everyone who comments there already seems to know that their truth isn’t the only truth.  It’s a refreshing break from the snippiness I’ve seen elsewhere in the cyberworld. 

Another favorite blogger who handles herself and her controversial topics well is Michelle.  She always prefaces a loaded post with a reminder that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and that we need to be mindful of those differences.  I love how she does this. 

And, in the words of one of my favorite AQers, “This is just my opinion.”  It may or may not be right, but it works for me.

Do you engage in conflict or do you avoid the hot-button topics altogether?  How do you handle yourself when you read a comment that makes your blood boil?  Have you ever left a community/blogger that has too much warfare?

Also, do you know of other great blogs that respectfully discuss difficult topics pertinent to the writing world?