Social media allows us great opportunities to connect with others. It creates the context for democratizing influence, giving voice to individuals on a mass basis.
It’s exciting just to consider the good that can be accomplished as various (and yes, opposing) political and other viewpoints can be communicated intelligently, respectfully, and persuasively, and without the filter of the usual authority figures. Imagine the potential for mutual understanding!
Unfortunately cyberspace these days is filled with vitriolic, insulting “exchanges” between people who in person may be kind and thoughtful, yet who online express opinions and defend views in ways that do nothing but repel.
While viciously and brutally attacking others may elicit a shot of dopamine that provides an instantaneous high, it doesn’t lead to lasting rewards. Assuming one’s personal values include kindness and respect, you just can’t feel sustainably good when that short-term high comes about viciously through attacking others.
Have You Seen This Person Anywhere?
We’ve noticed an interesting correlation in many attack-style tweets and posts: those with the strongest opinions and most insulting comments often seem to be the least informed regarding the issue they are discussing.
In a way, this makes sense. The more people allow their emotions to control their actions, the less room there is to involve logic and thoughtfulness.
Our guess is that those who have the most emotionally charged opinions likely obtain their information only from sources they already agree with.
While this is natural, that doesn’t make it productive — not for the tweeting-posting person, for the one with whom they are exchanging hurled invectives, or for society as a whole.
The Path of Influence
We offer two suggestions:
- Understand that tact is not the same thing as compromise. We can always speak tactfully and respectfully to others without compromising our own values. In other words, yes, you can disagree and even attack an issue without personally attacking the other person.
- If you’re going to express your opinion, first learn more about the issue. Actually make a study of the issue from the opposing side’s point of view. This was one of Abraham Lincoln’s persuasion secrets, and today it’s easier to do than ever. Watch, read, and listen to the media outlets that have the opposing views to yours, watching not to scowl and point out their flaws but to genuinely understand their point of view.
As the saying goes, “You don’t truly understand an issue until you can argue both sides.” Please don’t misinterpret this: we’re not suggesting you agree with them. We’re saying you’ll come away with a much better understanding—and communicate your own viewpoint much more effectively.
By all means, let’s continue to communicate, to have our opinions and express them. But let’s do it based on mutual respect. And that begins with us.
Bob Burg and John David Mann are coauthors of The Go-Giver Influencer. Legendary business coach Marshall Goldsmith says, “This may be the most important Go-Giver book yet—and in today’s polarized world, it could not be more timely.”
Download the first two chapters at bit.ly/GGInfluencer.
Also published on Medium.