When I was in college, a girl named Debbie from New York City used to torment me regularly at work. She'd call me names, swear at me, do anything she could to annoy me. And I took it. Why? Because I was raised to believe that you are nice to women, and you certainly don't fight with them or yell at them. I would just walk away, having no other manner of how to respond.
But then one day, I just wasn't in the mood for it. So for the first time in my life, I started yelling at a woman and I just flat out told her she could take her bad attitude back to New York because I was tired of it, and then some. And from then on out, she treated me like one of her best friends. Why? Well, it turns out that it really bothered her that I was such a "nice guy." She liked me as a person, but viewed my perceived passiveness as a weakness. Once I showed her I wouldn't just roll over because she's a woman, she and I were practically best buds from then on out.
Likewise, I would wrestle with my younger brother even through college, and I'd always end up getting hurt. And I kept thinking "I'm bigger, I'm stronger, I've even taken martial arts, how is it I keep getting hurt?" And it dawned on me. I was afraid of hurting him! All my life, I'd been told "don't hurt your brother!" So that day, I came back to the apartment and said "guess what!" and then proceeded to get my revenge for all of the times he jammed my face headlong into the carpet. Of course, he didn't want to fight as much any more after that.
Did I turn into a mean, bully? No. But what I did realize is that worrying about hurting the feelings of other people isn't the way to go through life.
If you believe that others are weak, you're not only making a poor assumption about them, but you're also holding yourself back from expressing yourself and being a self-actualized person. You even put yourself in a bad or weak position. But you never want to say something that is unforgivable. Don't say things you can't take back. There's a balance there. When you DO hurt someone, you just apologize. It's not that hard.
Where am I going here? Well, twice, I've responded to comments on PolicyMic to people who then just abruptly quit PolicyMic. That was NOT the goal. I wasn't personally insulting, I didn't call anyone names, I just stated my opinion, with conviction. I've had a lot of people tell me over the years, "You say things like you think you're right and everyone else is wrong."Regarding the first part, why would you stake out a position if you think you're wrong? Secondly, I'm pretty sure that somewhere out there, someone else agrees with me. But even then, it doesn't matter if I'm 1 in 300 or 1 in 300,000,000. If I think I'm right, well, I'm going to say it like I believe it.
But I feel bad for two reasons. One, obviously, I unknowingly ran across someone who is sensitive and didn't treat them sensitively. Two, I feel terribly that someone would just leave the site.
Fellow PolicyMic'ers, my message to you is to get in my face. Tell me I'm wrong. Even better, prove it. If it's unprovable, make the rational argument. Everyone makes mistakes. I've been corrected before, and I've thanked the people that corrected me.
People who are older (like me) are more likely to be entrenched in our opinion, rightly or wrongly. We've probably had the opinion a whole lot longer, and we've likely already heard the argument you are about to make a dozen times Don't get discouraged when we have snappy, fast comebacks for your first or second argument. Dig deeper. Say what's on your mind. Don't back down from a fight. One of the best things that I've found is that every time I argue with someone, I'm forced to find new data points, do more research, craft a better argument. If I'm not learning from my adversary, I'm teaching myself something.
I've been told by people that say I argue too strongly that I need to say "I believe" or "I think" or "my opinion is" in front of every thing I say. I don't believe that. It's redundant. Of course you believe it or you wouldn't say, right? If you really want to show you mean something, just say it, straight out.
And, don't get angry, don't hold a grudge. Today's adversary is tomorrow's ally. I've met some great people through the internet because we fought intensely for a few days, then truly learned to respect each other and like each other. And just like in life, you'll meet people that don't want to be your friend and that's okay too. You can't be friends with everyone, not should you try.
Not everyone folds like a lawn chair in the face of a strong opinion, but certainly we live in a time where no one can afford to fold. We get enough of that out of the White House these days. That will be my philosophy as I continue to debate and write on PolicyMic, and I invite you to join me.