Thursday, December 8, 2011

How To Disagree Without Being Disagreeable?

Dear Madame L,

I'm thinking of quitting Facebook! I replied to a political rant on the page of an acquaintance, and he replied by accusing ME of ranting. 

This guy isn't even really a friend: He made a "friend request" a couple of months ago, and I didn't see any reason to block him, since I did know him slightly for a couple of years a long time ago, but his political views are really extreme, borderline racist, and offensive to me; and the way he states them is aggressive and mean at worst and patronizing at best.

I don't want to let him bully me into not expressing my own views, but I also don't want to get into an argument with him that will only cause me more distress.

Please help,

Just Want Everyone to Get Along

Dear Trying to Get Along,

Madame L feels your pain but she does not have an easy answer for this. Madame L knows that you know that some of these kinds of disagreements are caused simply by the fact that when we're not communicating face to face, the nuances, the smiles, the self-deprecating shoulder shrugs, the friendly hand reached out, are missing.

Madame L does think that because we all do know this, we need to try extra hard to tend to each others' feelings in the very words we use.

For example, Madame L recently had a similar experience with someone (in a non-Facebook and non-blog environment), and she replied with words something like this:

"I'm sorry if I've offended you. I hope you'll understand why I don't think what I wrote was a rant. I'd like to mention that the information you were unsure of is available at [and here Madame L added the URL of a website with that information]. I hope we can agree to disagree."

Madame L urges you to take a deep breath before replying to a disagreeable comment. Some people like to argue and don't see it as impeding a relationship, while others feel arguments are friendship breakers. Replying in anger or disgust may just feed the anger or insecurities of the other person, add to your own anger or hurt feelings, and certainly won't resolve any disagreements.

Madame L also suggests that you may want to block your Facebook page from receiving the Wall postings and news feeds from acquaintances whose ideas make you feel uncomfortable. You can do this without their being aware of it.

Madame L has found this interesting article about why some people get angry and hateful when commenting about others' online postings: "What's wrong with angry commenters?"

Another interesting article tells how a person raised in a liberal family came to love his Republican in-laws.

For future reference, here's a funny/sarcastic take on how to handle unwanted friend requests in the first place.

Finally, Madame L hopes to hear from her Dear Readers about how they have resolved these kinds of issues.


Madame L

1 comment:

AskTheGeologist said...

You describe someone with characteristics of a bully, but it could also be someone with a wasted life behind him who resents every and all people whose existence reminds him of this.

One way of dealing with the person is to avoid them. Click that "x" in the upper right (I think... I get onto Facebook about once every 6 weeks and the format and rules seem to be different every time). Sometimes you can't avoid them - they are neighbors, perhaps.

Accuse YOU of ranting?!?? I'm reminded of a neighbor of our Church ball field. He cut a gate into the fence so his dogs could run free and poop in someone else's lawn. When Church FM rebuilt the fence, he cut a gate into it again - and put up signs saying "Respect thy neighbor - no cursing!" Of course there was no cursing from our straight-arrow and extremely kind Bishop who talked with him, so you could appeal to mental illness or bullying - or both.

I consider this sort the 'left tail of the Gaussian curve of the human population' - no matter where you go, nor what you do, there will always be a residual of nastiness like this out there.

My mother used to refer to this as "Poor Potty Training" - her way of saying that if you could stand in that nasty person's shoes, see what they have suffered in life, you could be more patient with them. I'm certain this is what the Christ does as he meets them returning from their mortal sojourn.