I witnessed something nasty unfold on the internet the other day. To be fair, it wasn’t that different from things that unfold every single day, hour, or even minute on the wonderful place that is the WWW. However, this one really made me do that Stretched-Mouth-Big-Breath-Inwards-Unpleasant-Double-Chin-Wince-Face.
Basically, a woman had written something for a website. No biggie. A couple of other women took issue with what was written. It being the internet, they didn’t explain their points particularly well. They did border on bitchy. What happened next, though, was something to behold.
The author’s friends en masse leapt upon these women, fury crackling from their fonts, claws bared and teeth gritted. At first it was one. Then two. Then four. Then ten. Then pretty much a solid couple of pages’ worth of women, piling on top of other women, destroying and belittling the women who had criticised another woman, dragging the entire conversation into a pool of bile and spite.
Nothing new really, huh. There are hundreds, thousands of instances of women piling on women and tearing each other down, and it makes me sad each time it happens. As great as life can be for some women in this world, there is no denying that huge inequalities remain, and whilst everyone cannot always agree it does give me the bad feels when people set out to destroy each other.
Why did this one instance make such an impression upon me? Because the piece in question was about a topic that I could relate to? Because I had agreed with the basic points of the initial criticism? Because I watched it unfold in realtime? Who knows. Whatever the combination of factors that caused the idea to form, the idea very much did form that
from now on I am only going to be supportive to women with whom I disagree.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to tell anyone that they need to act a certain way, or telling women that they shouldn’t do XYZ. But there really are ways to approach situations, ways that will result in you feeling much better and gaining a far better outcome than others. Ways that come from kindness, empathy, and sharing a slab of Dairy Milk and a cuppa.
I’ve been guilty of the opposite kind of behaviour in the past. I never used to be able to talk about politics or sensitive topics around other people, because I would immediately want to respond to what I saw as IDIOTIC STATEMENTS with fur flying. So I know how hard it is to approach these situations calmly and rationally, and this will be a bit of a challenge for me.
But, from now on, I promise that should I find myself in a situation whereby I wholeheartedly do not agree with something another woman has said I shall:
1. Ask plenty of questions so as to fully understand why they have said that – why is that their opinion? How did they form that opinion? What are their motivations behind that opinion?
2. Speak clearly and slowly about my own opinion – because normally I just get incredibly wound up and spit out varying syllables at the many pitches of a teenage boy so fast that my tongue gets tied and I end up basically shouting “SAUSAGE BLAH KNUCKLEMONKEY”.
3. Remain friendly and civil – I teach my son to always be kind and polite, so why should I display anything different just because I don’t agree with something somebody has said? Getting angry, rude, and/or personal generally means that on some level you’ve already lost your case.
4. Remember that differing opinions mean variety – wouldn’t everything be just incredibly boring if we all agreed? Yes, it would be WONDERFUL for the first day or so to find that everyone else thinks the same way as you, but any further down the line and it’d be like 1984.
5. If all else fails, walk away – there are far, far better uses of my time and the satisfaction of “winning” an argument isn’t the type of satisfaction I really need in my life.
I’m quietly confident about these things. Do you have any top tips for constructive ways to deal with opinions with which you disagree, or have you been on the receiving end of the flip-side of these?