Phil Friedman

5 years ago · 6 min. reading time · visibility ~100 ·

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Conversation Isn't Just Politely Waiting Your Turn to Speak

Conversation Isn't Just Politely Waiting Your Turn to SpeakLEARN TO ENGAGE
WITH CONFIDENCE


GENUINE ENGAGEMENT INVOLVES MORE THAN JUST GOOD SOCIAL MEDIA MANNERS…


Preface: A version of this  post first appeared on LinkedIn, where it garnered nearly 5,000 views and hundreds of comments, both pro and con. That was a good thing, because if nothing else, the piece itself generated a significant level of genuine engagement. Which is precisely what I would also like to do here on beBee.

 

There is a lot of talk these days about Internet "trolls" — people who supposedly cause discord on social media platforms by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic comments in discussion threads.

But while obviously such persons do exist, and while they do sometimes cause distress and disruption, I submit that they are nowhere near as prevalent or troublesome as they are made out to be. In fact, the term "troll" has, to my mind, been co-opted by a corps of self-styled social media fascists who apparently would like nothing better than to eliminate any semblance of genuine intellectual engagement.

Conversation Isn't Just Politely Waiting Your Turn to SpeakLEARN TO ENGAGE
WITH CONFIDENCEIndeed, we often see specific exhortations to the effect that, if you don't have anything positive to say about a post, don't say anything. And we also often see many who publish on social media saying that they neither invite, nor appreciate criticism of their posts — that the reason they publish a post is to express themselves, not to have other people critique what they may say. The goal of such vocal critics of criticism appears to be to squelch all forms of questioning and critical discussion. 

Okay, okay, so maybe I am resorting to some degree of hyperbole, but I want to gain your attention for this critical point:

Simply questioning the validity of, or disagreeing with someone's statement or thesis is not , ipso facto,  troll-ish behavior...

It's all a matter of how you take exception to what someone else says or writes. The defining characteristic of trolls is their propensity to ad hominem attack , that is, remarks directed at the person speaking or the author who is publishing. Remarks such as, "What a mindless dolt you are..." Or such as, "Get your head out of your arse..."

Colorful as these expressions may be, and perhaps as accurate as they may be at times, they do not address the validity of a statement, thesis, viewpoint, or other expression of thought or ideas. And they clearly do not add anything to the "conversation". So understand, if you will, that I am not in any way defending such behavior, online or off.

Conversation Isn't Just Politely Waiting Your Turn to SpeakLEARN TO ENGAGE
WITH CONFIDENCEHowever, as many times as I've observed troll-ish behavior, I have just as many, or more times read on social media that, "If you can't say anything good about someone's post, then do not comment at all, just move on." Rubbish and poppycock!

For me, this is the same mentality which holds that every kid who shows up for an athletic or other competition should go home with an award ribbon.

This mentality is what is driving social media in general, and LinkedIn in particular, toward becoming intellectually arid landscapes of point-and-click likes, shallow generic comments, and meaningless mutual ego stroking. It is what is driving the evolution of interfacing on major social media into becoming the literary and intellectual equivalent of Muzak.

Refusal to allow for civil and polite disagreement and argument leads to what I have come to call 'Insipidipity'...

Conversation Isn't Just Politely Waiting Your Turn to SpeakLEARN TO ENGAGE
WITH CONFIDENCEWithout examination, questioning and, yes, disagreement, there can be no genuine engagement .  For what is engagement other than two or more minds coming together to share, explore, and exchange thoughts and ideas? And without genuine engagement, there is only insipidipity — the state or property of being shallow, lifeless, colorless, dull, meaningless, and the like, however much we may delude ourselves into believing otherwise.

There are those who believe (erroneously) that "argument" is synonymous with agitated conflict. But as every philosopher, logician, and mathematician understands, it is not. Argument is discussion between persons holding differing views. Argument is what one adduces in support of one's thesis or position. We can engage in argument, and we can argue, without acting in any way like trolls. A verity that applies to business leadership management, as much as to writing and publishing.

Trolls are a sub-class of debaters, who care not a whit for truth or logical validity, but only about scoring (in their minds) points, and about being (again, in their minds) noticed. We should not, however, be confused by social media fascists, who, for their part, fail to distinguish between debate and discussion, or between strutting fisticuffs and genuine intellectual engagement.

Rational argument is not the same thing as debate...

Conversation Isn't Just Politely Waiting Your Turn to SpeakLEARN TO ENGAGE
WITH CONFIDENCEPhilosophers dating back to Socrates and Plato distinguish between philosophical argument and sophistry . The Greek Sophists of Plato's day were debaters, known for, and proud of their ability to "make the worse case appear the better." That is what debating is all about.

Indeed, in formal debating competitions, participants are not allowed to choose their side of a topic, but rather have a pro or con position assigned to them, or determined by drawing straws or chits from a hat. The core element of debate is the application of the skills of persuasion , not a burning desire to search for truth or reality. Does that perhaps sounds like any barristers, politicians, public relations spinmeisters, or marketing gurus you know of?

Notwithstanding whether we agree or not about these folk and trolls being sub-classes of debaters or sophists, I urge you to recognize that engaging in a rational search for a truth about some thought or idea (however mundane or minimal in terms of global impact) is not acting like a troll. Not by any commonly accepted meaning of the term.


Questioning is not troll-ish behavior. Nor is disagreeing, per se. Nor arguing, if one sticks to a considered and proper definition of "argument". Quite to the contrary, questioning, disagreeing, and arguing are integral facets of genuine engagement .

Genuine engagement involves caring about one's ideas, thoughts, and opinions... and about those of others...

Conversation Isn't Just Politely Waiting Your Turn to SpeakLEARN TO ENGAGE
WITH CONFIDENCEAlmost without saying, serious intellectual engagement — even concerning relatively trivial matters — requires effort. Effort to think issues through. Effort to be rational and logical. Effort to restrain oneself from making the quick quip or taking the cheap shot. So much effort that I myself, a miscreant academically-trained and degreed philosopher, fail now and again to resist the temptation to debate, rather than argue. Or to take a cheap shot, especially when accosted by a troll or a social media fascist — two polar extremes that actually look and behave very much like one another.

Some people are simply not suited to climbing mountains or sailing across oceans...nor do we expect them to...

In order to write and publish, especially on a social media platform such as LinkedIn, you really need to have a thick skin. Because when you publish, your thoughts, ideas, inspirations, and opinions are subject to scrutiny by others, sometimes by thousands of others, and occasionally by hundreds of thousands of others. And that can be a harrowing experience.

But just as we don't, or ought not to create artificial dwarf hills and call them mountains so that the timid among us can consider themselves mountain climbers, we should not, and are not obligated to create a "gentle" environment for those who lack the strength of their convictions — some might say brazen ego — to defend their views in public.

If you can't stand up to scrutiny and genuine engagement, with people questioning and disagreeing with your expressed views and ideas, then just don't publish. Don't fret about it. Don't be self accusatory about it. But also don't whine about it. Above all, don't expect those who value genuine intellectual engagement and growth to tippy-toe around your sensitive feelings and fragile personality.

I am sorry if this seems harsh, for it is not so intended. But I am old enough, and experienced enough to understand that we don't actually help our children to grow or develop the life skills they desperately need by giving them prize ribbons for just showing up at competitions. In a similar vein, I suggest to you that we don't do anyone any real favor by treating each other with intellectual kid gloves. To be sure, we don't need to be unkind to one another in order to genuinely engage. But we do need to question civilly , disagree respectfully, argue rationally, and seek truths (however mundane). None of which makes us in any reasonable stretch of imagination trolls.  — Phil Friedman


Author's Notes: If you found this article to be of value, you may want to take a look at some of my other writing about social media and communications:

"He Said He Said No. 18" by Jim Murray and Phil Friedman

"Supermen Need Not Apply"

"Thee Points of Advice to My Teenage Daughter"

"Conversations With My Wife About My Writing"


If you'd  like to receive notifications of my writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee profile.
As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.

Feel free to "like" and "share" this post and my other LinkedIn articles — whether on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. I ask only that you credit me properly as the author, and include a live link to the original work.


About me, Phil Friedman:  With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boatbuilder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation. In a previous life, I taught logic and philosophy at university.


The (optional-to-read) pitch: As a professional writer, editor, university educator, and speaker, with more than 1,000 print and digital publications, I've recently launched an online program for enhancing your expository writing: learn2engage — With Confidence. My mission is to help writers and would-be writers improve the clarity of their thought and writing, master the logic of discussion, and deal confidently with disagreement.


Conversation Isn't Just Politely Waiting Your Turn to SpeakLEARN TO ENGAGE
WITH CONFIDENCE

To schedule an appointment for a free 1/2-hour consult email:   info@learn2engage.org


Text Copyright © 2016 by Phil Friedman — All Rights Reserved
 Images Credits:  the Author, Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net, and Google Images


Conversation Isn't Just Politely Waiting Your Turn to SpeakLEARN TO ENGAGE
WITH CONFIDENCE


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Comments
Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

4 years ago #36

#47
Phil, I'm not sure the reason is maturing but maybe the fact that a few argumentative, and aggressive to some extent, individuals left beBee.

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #35

#49
Yep, Wayne Yoshida, as you and I have discussed a couple of time, it's the difference between talking WITH one another and talking AT each other. Cheers!

Wayne Yoshida

Wayne Yoshida

4 years ago #34

I like that phrase about "intellectual equivalent of Muzak" Thanks Phil Friedman for sharing this so it popped into my feed. As I have said -- all platforms depend on the users -- actually -- contributors of content for us to read, comment and share. And to agree or disagree.

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #33

#46
Oh yeah, Jim? When did you ever wait politely just to speak gently? But truth be told, it's that curmudgeonly edge that makes you so endearing. :-)

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #32

#45
Thank you, Lada, for saying so, and for re-sharing this older post. I believe that beBee may be maturing, in that we are seeing a wider acceptance of the principles outlined here. Cheers!

Jim Murray

Jim Murray

4 years ago #31

Just noticed that I never commented on this. Maybe I've gotten to used to waiting to speak that I just didn't know what to do :)

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

4 years ago #30

"Without examination, questioning and, yes, disagreement, there can be no genuine engagement. For what is engagement other than two or more minds coming together to share, explore, and exchange thoughts and ideas?" I'll repeat what I said in my previous comment, more than a year ago. A healthy criticism supported by valid arguments is always welcome.

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #29

#42
@Mark Anthony - I am saying something similar -- although not in regard to "writing", but rather in regard to intellectual exchange and conversation, which are not the same thing. Not to nit pick or put to fine a point on it, a lot of people on social media write and publish, but what I have learned is that a miniscule percentage of those are actually interested in conversation. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #28

#40
Believe me, Dale Masters, I will never call you "sir". Don't feel bad about the hair though, it sounds like your describing my personal balding pattern. But let me tell you a story. I knew I was getting old(er) when my duck-and-dodge line stopped working hen the Girl Scouts came door to door soliciting for their fund raising campaigns. The line I used, until it stopped working was "No, sorry girls, but my Mommy's not here right now.

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #27

#34
Gerald, it appears that if comments are too long, they go off into cyberspace, never to be seen again.

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #26

#31
Thanks, Gerald Hecht, for reading and commenting, and for the kind words. I someties wonder if the trolls on social media aren't less of a problem than those who want to impose an ehtos of mutual back patting and stroking, to the exclusion of any form of free expression of dissent. Cheers!'

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #25

#30
Thank you Kevin Pashuk, for reading and commenting. I agree. Cheers!

Kevin Pashuk

Kevin Pashuk

5 years ago #24

If we all agree with each other all the time, I would not hang around any platform for very long. I do like the way that beBee members don't forget to be respectful, even when they disagree. Thanks for pointing out this post Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #23

#27
Thank you, @Emilia Ludovino, for reading, and for the kind words. They make the effort of writing worthwhile. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #22

#26
Well, Franci Eugenia Hoffman, some have called me a "Wood Bee". Cheers!

Franci 🐝Eugenia Hoffman, beBee Brand Ambassador

Phil Friedman intimidating!? Nah, he's a good bee.

Cyndi wilkins

Cyndi wilkins

5 years ago #20

#18
This is not intimidation dear Lada...Fragile personalities tend not to swim in the shark tank of the internet;-) This is learning...The great Professor Phil Friedman is a master at getting minds humming...Or in this case, buzzing!

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #19

@Chas Wyatt - True, perhaps, although under thinking a response has always struck me as a tactic to give the impression of engagement, without the substance of it. Thank you for reading and commenting, whether overthought or underthought. Cheers! #23

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #18

#19
thank you, Javier C\u00e1mara Rica's stuff. His stinger is always sharp! Cheers.

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #17

I am with you, Lada Prkic, CEng. I am not intimidating as I have 3 vowels in my sir name. Those like you with less than 2 vowels are truly intimidating. A fellow undergrad student of mine was a Polish logician named Krc -- and he was reeeally intimidating. But then again, he wrote Propositional Calculus in reverse notation. :-) thank you for reading and commenting. Cheers! #18

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #16

Thank you, @Mohammed A. Jawad, for reading and commenting. you are correct that social media nonsense is nonsense, and shall never be understood. #17

Javier 🐝 CR

Javier 🐝 CR

5 years ago #15

#18
maybe because Phil Friedman looks like a tough guy :) .... I am joking ....Phil thanks a lot ! we consider you an essential and irreplaceable bee !!!

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

5 years ago #14

Phil Friedman, I really don't know why people are intimidated by you.😊 Maybe the reason is that I do not have fragile personality and sensitive feelings, as you said, so I don't expect you to tiptoe around any subject or issue. In fact, I think that healthy criticism supported by valid arguments is always welcome.

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

5 years ago #13

Indeed, insensible content on the social media platforms rattles with its own berserk ways!

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #12

Thank you, Franci Eugenia Hoffman, for reading and sharing this post. My best to you. Cheers!#15

Franci 🐝Eugenia Hoffman, beBee Brand Ambassador

Sharing, Phil Friedman.

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #10

#11
@Cyndi Wilkins - I would love to answer your last question in detail, but... I have to meet my little green comrades when they land their hyper-space vehicle in about an hour. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #9

#8
, thank you for that clarification. I was, of course, just yanking your chain -- which those who know me well, also know that I am wont to do. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #8

#5
Chas Wyatt, thank you for reading and commenting. To clarify, you will note that I personally reject debate as a legitimate activity, since it has primarily to do with persuasion, and not the seeking of truth. Pretty akin to selling. I also eschew "criticism" for the most part, as it implies the personal expression of judgement concerning value -- something that is quite subjective. And I use a sense of the word "argue" which is consistent with that used in philosophical discussion, and which does not contain any component of acrimony. Consequently, we are left with what you call "intellectualization". Personally, I believe and submit to you that intellect is the clearest window to the soul, not as is so often advanced, emotion. Therefore, I also believe that intellectual engagement is a much surer path to person-to-person connection than what I perceive (perhaps unfairly) you are getting at. From my point of view, emotion acts as armor to protect one's own prejudices and presumptions from questioning and uncertainty, however much such uncertainty is justified. As to non-participation, engagement is not mandated. However, it you or anyone else published (meaning makes public) an opinion concerning some subject, then I feel you have invited comment, and that it is fair to make such comment, whether pro or con. If one wants to publish, but is not inviting comment, perhaps one should put a red sticker in the corner of the first page of the piece, which says "Honest comment is not solicited, and not appreciated. Please post only positive comments." Then I and others like me will know not to waste our time reading what the author has to say. Cheers! .

Cyndi wilkins

Cyndi wilkins

5 years ago #7

#9
Totally! I feel like I've just had a virtual lobotomy;-0 Are you sure you are not an extraterrestrial masquerading around as our lovable Mr. Phil Friedman??

Cyndi wilkins

Cyndi wilkins

5 years ago #6

Wow! Take that Phil Friedman!

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #5

#4
@Cyndi wilkins - Thank you for reading and commenting. I agree that the "science of thought" is as yet quite imprecise, however, rational discussion is not part of such science. Rather rational thought and intelligent exchanges instances of the USE of thought, and can be sufficiently precise, even though we do not understand, at a meta-level, the how the mechanism actually works. For example, our understanding of how the brain functions is still quite in its infancy, but that does not mean we cannot learn to act on a playing field with sure-footed precision. As well, I disagree that truth is subjective. While each of our respective perception and intellectual view of what is true may, indeed, be tinged with subjectivity and personal POV, it does not follow that there is no objective truth. Two plus two equals four is a true equation, independent of whether or not I mistake five apples in a bag for four, and at the same time, you mistake three apples for four. A lot of people mistakenly think that Einstein's Theory of Relativity forever proved that everything is relative, when in fact, the theory actually postulates a way to establish objectively true (non-relative) points in the time/space continuum, in the face of the relativity (subjectivity) of perception. Deep s$#t, eh?

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #4

#3
@ Julie Hickman - yes, you are correct. Open and honest engagement is to my mind a keystone of interpersonal relationships, both in and outside of business. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #3

#2
, thank you for reading and commenting. And for the kind words... I think. I have concern over two points you make: 1) That you found me scary, and 2) that I remind you of your grandfather. For the record, I do try not to be overbearing or "scary", although I do recognize that some people take any measure of disagreement as basically hostile. I hope that your initial impression of me has passed, and that you can see I'm really pretty much of a Teddy bear. As well, although I am flattered by your comparison of me to your grandfather, understand that you are treading on thin ice when you make age-related comments like that to me. For such comments tend to remind me of the lack of hair on the top of my head, which I work mightily never to glimpse in any mirror at home or elsewhere. Cheers!

Cyndi wilkins

Cyndi wilkins

5 years ago #2

"Recognize that engaging in a rational search for a truth about some thought or idea (however mundane or minimal in terms of global impact) is not acting like a troll." ...No it is not...and recognize as well, that the "truth" is as subjective as the science of thought itself. Thank you for an excellent post Phil Friedman...I'm sure this will create quite a "buzz" here on beBee as well!

Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #1

Thank you, Javier C\u00e1mara Rica, for sharing this post.

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