Sunday 10 September 2017

Nerd Church - How To Disagree With Someone Without Being a Jerk

(Warning: this post contains jerky/not smooth-moving gifs which may effect people with photosensitive conditions.)

(Warning: this post contains references to bigotry and Nazis.)

The only person you're ever going to 100% agree with all of the time is yourself - and if you're anything like me, that doesn't always work either.

So sometimes, you're gonna disagree with people you like (not to mention the people you don't like,) over big things and little things alike.

girl with steam coming out of ears pic

Just to make myself clear - you HAVE to disagree with Nazis, and you CAN be a jerk to them.

If someone's waving swastikas and pictures of Hitler around, and/or belongs to the KKK, they've pretty much waived any right for people to be polite to them.

If you wanna be rude to someone at a Nazi march like Charlottesville, THEN GO FOR IT! (But keep YOURSELF safe, ok?)

This post isn't about disagreeing with Nazis and extremists - that's a given.

What I'm talking about is disagreeing with non-extremists - average people, if there is such a thing.

So, if you disagree with someone over something less extreme than fascism, what do you do?

I don't have all the answers, but there are a few things that I fall back on:

1. Remain calm

This is difficult to do*, especially if it's something that has high emotions attached**, but the calmer you stay, the less the situation will escalate.

It's not always gonna happen, but do your best to stay calm when you can. You're less likely to say or do something you'll regret, and you'll spare yourself the pain of letting rage take over.

*I'm not great at this - but then, when I'm angry I burst into tears and people think I'm upset and I'm like NO, I'M ANGRY!!! Lol.

**when it comes to people who have hurt friends or family... I tend to throw logic and calmness out the window! Oops.

2. Try to think of things from the other perspective

If you're dealing with anyone who isn't clearly an extremist a**, then just take a moment to step back and understand that they may not be looking at something from the same perspective as you.

That doesn't make them right - but it doesn't make you right either. And if you listen, you may well learn something.

And it's important that we do consider other perspectives to our own - how can we develop a strong system of ethics without testing that system against other opinions?

How can we learn if we only ever hear our own side?

3. Agree to disagree

If it's an issue that you can't ignore, then you may have to part ways.

But if it's something you can move past without it affecting your friendship (or just your acquaintanceship) then just agree to disagree.

I know, I know - easier said than done. But I was once friends with an anti-EU UKIP-supporter (no, really.)

We agreed to not talk politics, and, actually (and no-one was more surprised than me,) he wasn't inherently racist or bigoted. (Of course, this was years before the EU referendum.)

(No, I'm no longer friends with him, but that was because he clearly didn't give a damn when I didn't turn up to the uni course we were both supposed to be on, because he never checked on me. (Long story.))

4. Don't intentionally stir things up

Hopefully none of you do this, but there are definitely people who do.

These people know that there's an issue guaranteed to cause friction between themselves and the other party, and, without apparent reason... they just can't seem to help purposely pushing the other person's buttons.

They know exactly what to do and say to get a big reaction, and they do it (often with the assistance of copious amounts of alcohol.)

Don't be that person. That's not an attempt to put your views across or start a positive debate, that's an attempt to start a fight, and it's not ok.

5. Realise that opinions are not fixed

Just because someone tweeted something about that topic 6 years ago doesn't mean they feel the same way now.

People are constantly evolving - find out what their current opinions are before you judge. I'm certainly not the same person I was 6 years ago, are you?

The same friend that I mentioned at point 3 once asked me whether I believed in God, my answer was: 'It depends what day you ask me on - I change my mind on that a lot.' Which he totally didn't understand.

Maybe I have an inherently malleable outlook on life - what with the sexual fluidity and everything!

6. Recognise that people are not monoliths

I see this a lot with the representation of marginalised people in books - one person with a marginalisation is offended by a depiction, another is not, and other people are scrambling to decide which of them has the 'definitive' opinion.

Neither are wrong. Ok? NEITHER OF THEM ARE WRONG.

People are people - and within groups there will be widely differing opinions. All of them are valid (except those based on hate, or those based on false data.)

I know that that can be hard to grasp, but the truth is not one thing and only that thing when it comes to interpretation of representation. It's not like 2+2=4.

People can interpret things in hugely different ways - the trick is recognising the validity of the other side, and that someone disagreeing with you doesn't erase your own feelings.

7. Pick your battles

Sometimes it's not worth telling people you disagree with them. Other times people get really hot and bothered over things that in the grand scheme of things don't mean much.

You also get times when it's just insensitive to disagree with people - you don't argue with music choice in the middle of a funeral, you don't bring up old arguments on someone's wedding day (at least - I hope you don't.)

So the appropriateness of your timing and your actions matters, dear nerdlets!

There's a great TEDx talk by Theo E J Wilson, which I'll embed below, titled 'A black man undercover in the alt-right.'

Obviously, I don't agree that we should be trying to understand the alt-right Nazis, but this video makes some fantastic points about seeing things from other people's perspective; I seriously recommend watching it.

(Run time is 18.21)

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  1. I definitely struggle with talking to a person who doesn't have the same opinion as me. My hands clench, I just start shaking and I have no idea how to remain calm. It's one of my fatal flaws.

    1. *hugs* It's called being human, Em. Just do your best, and walk away from situations where you feel unsafe or overwhelmed. Sometimes some time away helps you to think things through - espec. if you're getting over-anxious.

  2. Great tips!
    I have a hard time trying to understand the other person's perspective though...each to their own but when you can't meet eye to eye then it's definitely time to agree to disagree.

    1. Yes! Unless it's something that's totally against what you believe in, sometimes you just have to move past it.

  3. Love this! I still hate conflict, but I must say that the most useful thing I have ever done was my training for a crisis intervention hotline. I acquired handy skills for, you know, actual crisis intervention, but more broadly, I learned nonviolent communication skills (NVC), which have been useful to me in every sphere of my life. It just makes you slow down your rhetoric and think about what you're saying and what the other person's saying -- I'll repeat back what I think the other person is trying to get at, for instance, which helps me avoid making assumptions about what I think they think, and makes it easier to find common ground.

    1. I think we all need to slow down sometimes - the Internet makes knee-jerk reactions very easy, and sometimes we need to think about the relevancy and/or appropriateness of what you're saying. I think reading things through before you click send can be super helpful!

  4. Isn't it annoying when you're there crying and everyone's like, 'calm down, stop getting so upset!' and you're like, 'DAMMIT THESE ARE ANGRY TEARS!!!!'? Lol.

    I'm a stubborn little madam and argue with people regularly ;) It's important to never give up your voice - especially when there's so much bad cr*p going on in the world!

  5. This is very sound advice. Especially picking your battles, I try to do this. I can completely related to the angry cry. Once at work my bosses told me I wasn't being flexible with working hours when my dad had just died and it was down to a manager telling outright lies about taking once of my scheduled days off away from me and giving it to herself. They were sort of telling me off (whatever the business equivalent is) and I couldn't stop crying and I can just remember sobbing "I'm not upset, I'm just SO ANGRY!"

    #RVHT (hope to see you later?) x

    1. It's so annoying, you're like, 'DAMMIT I'M ANGRY!!!' lol, and you just can't get the reaction you need off people!

      Also, your manager lady sounds like a b**ch #TrueStory


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