For Relax Max: Am I mellowing?

>> Saturday, July 18, 2009

Relax Max said: I just had something disconcerting happen to me. I deleted a comment I had made because it seemed to rude. Does this mean I am turning into a considerate person? Or that I am trying to become better? It is a bit disconcerting. I used to just make honest comments and let the chips fall where they fell. Is this something I should worry about or should I just see if it passes? Any honest opinion would be appreciated.

I think this is an excellent question. I'm a proponent of honest discussion and note that honest discussion can certainly lead to heated discussion. Sometimes it leads to downright nastiness. I'm going to discuss what I strive to do (and where I fail) and then try to answer your question.

As a general plain-talker, I'm not immune. I make an effort not to attack the person instead of the idea, but, I admit, there are situations where I do just that. I have low tolerance for intolerance (ironically enough), and the kind of ignorance where the facts are ignored for ideology, but I lose my cool when people are hurt by either one. And losing one's cool does not make for a civil exchange.

When I was much younger, I was even more prone to this, but, once when I was torn up on an issue I was passionate about, I found the following quote:

Truth often suffers more by the heat of its defenders than from the arguments of its opposers.
--William Penn
It was telling and true. I knew this. I knew a professional letter explaining my dissatisfaction was much more likely to lead to a resolution I could live with than a rant written when I was still enraged. I also discovered something on that actual issue that was driving me crazy. I could sometimes get my point across by sticking, politely and consistently to my guns. Many of the challenges I faced were them testing me to see if I had a rationale, if it mattered enough for me to defend.

So, I make an effort to think about things before responding, to endeavor to attack the ideology or argument and not the arguer. The good news is that, if I do that with another thinking individual, even if one doesn'tI don't agree with him or her, this is usually much more effective in getting them to appreciate (if not agree with) my side than ranting and raving.

If I am talking to someone immune from rational argument (and there are those supporting nearly every ideology out there), ranting or sarcastic nastiness won't change anything either, but sometimes it's too tempting to forgo. Determined ignorance (i.e. stupidity) can't be countered with facts or logic either, though. I try to avoid those discussions, but I can get sucked in and often am ashamed of my behavior. Arguing circles around someone stupid isn't really an achievement. It's effectively kicking a puppy, has no positive effect on the puppy and demonstrates my own immaturity and impatience.

So, what does that mean for you? Well, I'll have to speculate and you'll have to decide how well it fits into your situation. There are a few explanations I can come up with:
  • The blog/website you left the comment on is authored by someone of determined and intractable ignorance. The author is rude and/or deaf to all reason, is so in love with his/her opinion that no amount of reason or ranting will accomplish anything. In such a case you might delete one's comment because it will accomplish nothing or your ranting is so over the top that you might be afraid of being of similar ignorance/rudeness. However, my contact with you in the past argues against that. You don't seem to have any qualm about answering ignorance/rudeness with more of the same, so I don't think this is it.
  • Your answer was a gut reaction and came out more nasty than would have been effective. As your temper cooled, you realize that the way you responded (not the meat of the response) was said unnecessarily harshly to convey the meaning. You deleted the comment so that you could explore other ways to convey the same position but with a more reasoned tone (and likely make it a more convincing argument at the same time). This I can buy.
  • Your response included some frustration at an author who you might respect. You characterized them with names you know aren't really appropriate, but you are frustrated at the stances and the apparent close-mindedness they show on many issues. Again, because you respect them, you're uncomfortable with the personal denigration when it's really the issue you want to attack. This is another valid possibility, in my opinion, and also doesn't preclude another attempt to state your case when your frustration is less to the fore.
  • You don't feel strongly enough on the topic to argue over it. This kind of reaction is particularly applicable to situations where you're dealing with people you know are willing to go toe to toe. Sometimes, what you're fighting for isn't worth the aggravation of dealing with someone, especially if you don't think there's any chance of changing their mind. Another distinct possibility. Picking one's battles is a tried and true strategy for maintaining a relationship, even a strained one.
  • It didn't feel right. Sometimes, after you write a response, especially if it's emotional, you may realize it just doesn't feel like the right thing. It might involve some of the reasoning above or something entirely different but, at that moment, the comment is not something you want to be associated with, that it doesn't say what you want or in say what you want in the way you want it said.
I don't think your reaction, whatever caused it, necessarily means you are (or aren't) becoming a better or more considerate person. It could be pure self-interest in wanting to state your case more effectively or saving yourself some hassle. It could, however, mean that you'd rather have a meaningful dialog than outshout an opponent and that is a mature response (especially given that "newspaper" you read on-line :D ). If that thought bothers you, just skim through some of the sensationalist media out there and your interest in having a meaningful dialog will probably be strangled in it's infancy by the righteous disgust at some people.


  • The Mother

    My rule is that I always look over comments carefully before posting. It takes longer that way, but it does help one to keep one's head and avoid embarrassment.

  • Aron Sora

    What I do is read the article, then go about my day. When I come back any emotional attachment to the topic has disappeared and I have time to think over my reaction. Relax Max, you have to relax. You are in the top 10% of internet users in terms of clarity of thought. I give you 1000 get out of internet jail free cards. What ever you did it's fine and it is better to go with your gut. If you don't like it, delete it.

  • JD at I Do Things

    Good question and excellent response.

    I should probably give more thought to some of my comments, but then I do often feel like the first thing I write reflects my truest intent, and that if I think about too long, I overthink it.

  • Relax Max

    I'm very late in thanking you for your thoughtful answer. I have been buried. Not literally, but effectively.

    I think a couple of your possibilities fit. The part about me becoming a better person was obviously a jest; I know I'm not. (Whew!) But I do have a low threshold for IT (ignorance tolerance) and sometimes tend to vilify the perceived perpetrator. But like you say, what does that prove? Maybe hurt the perp's feelings for a while, but you won't change his opinion. If, for example, you believe the USA is a puritanical and sexually repressed society, no amount of pointing out the sexual revolution of 40 years ago, or pointing out that anything and everything goes, sexually, in America is likely to resurrect the believer in repression up out of the 1950s. So it's better left unsaid.

    Also, I have a mental rule against attacking other commentators to a post, rather than the person who made the post, so that may also have been a reason for deletion. No need to "attack," anyway, right? Sigh.

    So... does my momentary compassion make me a real loser in the world of honesty and clear thinking? I prefer to think not. I doubt you could prove I had any sort of permanent affliction of compassion. Not scientifically, anyway. :)

    Actually, Aron, I'm in the top 1%, but who's counting, right?

    Thank you for your analysis. Stephanie. Some of this comment was tongue-in-cheek. I'll let you decide which parts.

    Just don't think any of Aron's get out of internet jail cards will stop me from ripping your reasoning to shreads. It is just too much fun.

  • Stephanie B

    Rip away, if you have better reasoning. I might learn something.

Post a Comment

Blog Makeover by LadyJava Creations