8 Things: Communicate wisely.

Let me just say from the outset… I doubt that many who actually need to read this will do so. Also, I’m not even going to try to top what Renza wrote, because it says so much of what I’m thinking too. Being kind is the best way to establish respect and maintain your own self-respect.

But for the sake of providing my own perspective on how to get along inside and outside of the diabetes community (and I can’t believe we’re talking about this again), here are 8 things I try to keep in mind when I engage with someone who holds a different point of view.

1. First, I almost always wait.

Why wait when your point of view is under attack and it seems like everyone else is responding and jumping into the fray?

There are lots of reasons to wait. Often, just waiting takes the air out of someone’s self-important balloon. By the time you respond, they don’t have as much energy left to disagree with you. Also, and I can’t stress this enough… waiting gives you time to form your words and consider how you’re going to respond, or if you’ll respond at all.

That doesn’t mean I’m doing nothing while I wait. It just means that I’m not responding yet. However, I may be writing a draft of what I want to say; or figuring out a strategy for responding that includes what I want to say and what I want to say to any potential responses to my initial response.

By the time I finally do respond, I almost always do so with a more measured, more powerful message.

2. But sometimes, you just have to let it go. Not everything, or everyone, deserves your response. Some opinions and the people who speak them need to exist in a vacuum all by themselves. Restraint is tough, but sometimes you have to go high when they go low, to quote Michelle Obama.

Also, I like the idea of Abraham Lincoln and the “hot letter”. When confronted with an attacker either inside or outside of government, Lincoln would sometimes write a letter detailing his exact thoughts in the moment. Often, he wouldn’t send them or even sign them. I believe they were catharsis in a way, and probably sometimes, a first draft of a more tactful response to a difficult situation. I’ve done this too.

3. Try to address the issue, not the person. When I was a retail manager, I used to tell my employees that despite what we’re told, the customer is not always right… but the customer should never be made to feel like it’s their fault they’re wrong. Even if it is.

As much as I can separate the issue from the person expressing their opinion, I try to do that. Hurt feelings over being wrong about an issue is something people can get over. Hurt feelings over personal attacks are a much bigger hurdle.

4. Find the dividing line. There’s a dividing line somewhere, between anger or disappointment, and just being bitter. I’m okay with acknowledging someone’s anger over an issue, or disappointment at being left out of a discussion. But if you’re bitter? You own that all by yourself pal, and you’ll have to live with it, because I’m not going to validate your bitterness by responding to it.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find that dividing line I mentioned, but the more you can separate anger or disappointment from bitterness, the more likely it is that you’ll wind up maintaining a decent amount of personal space between you and your critic. And you’ll be more likely to maintain the respect of and from a critic, as long as they don’t cross that line into bitterness.

A few other very important points I’d like to make:

5. Make sure you’re right. If you’re calling out a journalist for using the word “gadget” in a story on medical devices, you’d better make sure you haven’t used the same word in the same context on your blog or in Facebook posts. Nothing kills your argument faster than contradicting yourself.

6. It’s okay to let someone have the last word. I’ve often stated my point of view and told my counterpart that I will let them have the last word. That does two things: 1) It closes the conversation after they make their last point; and 2) It really makes them think hard about the last point they’re going to make, because they know I’m not paying attention after that.

Especially when they’re being bitter, sometimes the best way to handle a detractor is by letting them cry themselves to sleep, so to speak. The more they display bitterness, the more my lack of reaction shines a light on it.

7. Sometimes, it’s better to handle things personally. In other words, through an e-mail, or even one on one at a conference or meeting. That can be more difficult because it doesn’t offer the false high that comes with a swift social media response. Regardless, public displays of outrage are not always the best way to get your point across.

8. Forever is a long time. It’s forever, man. I have had difficult communications with individuals, even where they were being bitter, and ended them in ways that leaves the door open for reconciliation. Now we can at least have a decent conversation online again, even if I don’t agree with their point of view.

Say what you want to say. But if you’re going to set something on fire, make sure it’s worth torching. I speak from experience, and trust me, you don’t want to have to cross back over a bridge you’ve already burned.
 
 
I hope these are useful pointers for you as you continue to navigate the information superhighway. Remember that people are on the other end of what you post. People with feelings, with jobs they’d like to keep, with families to feed, and with reputations they’d like to keep intact.

Aren’t you the same?

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Comments

  • sbaumgartner94  On July 3, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Great points! As far as not believing we have to review this, I’m taking a reminder from the education world: teach, learn, try, fail, reteach, relearn, try again. And repeat, getting better (hopefully) over time. We’ll never end all suffering, and that includes how we talk to each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Blood Sugar Trampoline  On July 3, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Well put together Stephen. I shall save this so that I can refer to it when needed. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Rick Phillips  On July 3, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    I do appreciate the eight things but I appreciate number 8 the best. Forever is a very long time.

    Liked by 1 person

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