I remember a little over four years ago there was a whole movement in the United States with people who were upset about the results of the 2016 election that started a not my president social media campaign. It was laughable to say the least. They weren’t going to change an election with a social media campaign. Not sure what they were trying to prove to be honest. But it was indicative of a deeper rooted issue that was present in our culture. In 2021 it’s been given the name cancel culture.
The basic principle of cancel culture is that when something doesn’t go how we want it to go, we cancel it. Now canceling comes in a variety of forms. We delete someone from social media and act as if they never existed. We change the narrative of someone’s story to line up with what fits our lives best. We demonize the opposing person to make them the total enemy just because they have a different view point.
There are tons of ways that this is done in our world today. And it goes both ways, so let’s not get our panties all in a wad here. This is a two sided game that’s played out in life, so stop pointing fingers at the “other side” for doing this all the time. Although it always looks worse from our perspective when the opposition does it.
But is there a better way? Is there a better way to handle it when someone disagrees with us or opposes our view point?
Yes! There is! It’s called being an adult. Goodness we act like a bunch of preschoolers who get our feelings hurt. Grow up!
Ok that wasn’t helpful at all. Sorry about that. Seriously, there is a better way to handle this for sure. Canceling is not the right answer. Ever. Here are a few steps that we can take to prevent ourselves from canceling someone that has a different outlook than we have.
Listen before replying.
One of the biggest issues that I find exists in this whole cancel culture world is that we make assumptions based on emotion not fact. We hear the part of what someone says and form our opinion before we know the whole story. All too often our communication is predominately in short written forms like text messages or social media. Well you can’t get all of your thoughts out in a text message and you have no idea what a person really is thinking when you read that text. So instead of asking what a person means, we tend to jump to our emotional response. We make assumptions. ASSumptions are not good by the way. They make you look, well let’s just say bad.
Respond don’t react.
Following closely on the heals of listening is having a measured response. It’s super easy to give the gut reaction to something but let’s be honest. That’s usually not the best way of doing things is it?
I think of wha happens when someone, even jokingly, slaps me in the back. Not to be hurtful or anything just a hit on the back harder than a gentle pat. Well, something inside me flips when that happens. My reaction is generally not that great. I will typically spin around with fist clenched ready to show you in no uncertain terms that I don’t like that. I know it’s an overreaction but that’s what reactions are – they are not well thought out.
So when we respond instead of react, we take time to process the information that someone gives us. We listen to the words but also read the nonverbal cues. When we’ve put all of the information together and calmed ourselves down from any emotional vigor, we can respond in a more level-headed way.
Another key to having a civil conversation with someone who differs from you is to remove your emotionally keyed up self from the equation. We all too often come into a situation with all sorts of preconceived ideas, emotions from other parts of life, bad day at work, scared of financial trouble, kids aren’t listening, friends don’t treat us the same way, all sorts of things that pile up and then someone disagrees and WHACK! We rapidly turn around and pummel the person who thinks red is a better color than blue.
When we’re in a situation where we disagree with someone else, it can be helpful to step away for a predetermined amount of time to cool off. Say something like Hey I’m not in a good place right now, so I’m going to go for 10 minutes to cool off and then we can talk more. But come back in 10 minutes and be cooled off!
The two problems we have with this most often are that we don’t take time to cool off when we know it’s the right thing to do. And secondly, we don’t set a return time. If we don’t set a return time, it comes across like we’re ditching the conversation. Saying that you need to go cool off is so ambiguous and has the appearance that you’re never coming back and just avoiding the problem.
So step away and cool off. Then come back and with a level head talk gently about it.
Lower your voice.
One of my favorite things about parenting that I learned way too late was the power of a whisper. When we’re heated up and someone isn’t listening to us and we feel attacked or like we need to get a point across, we tend to raise our voice and yell. But when we raise our voice, the other person backs away.
If we want to get the situation to calm down and draw them close, we need to lower our voice (and in turn lower our blood pressure). Then we will force ourselves to more calmly engage in conversation.
It’s ok to not see things the same way.
The last part of this is to realize that we don’t need to agree with everyone. It’s ok to disagree. Disagreement doesn’t mean war. It just means that I can respect your point of view but I expect you to do the same for mine.
None of these alone are silver bullet approaches to diffusing conflict. But all of them put together will go a long way toward deescalating some of the trivial back biting we find prevalent in our society and relationships these days.