Before you get into a debate with somebody on the Interwebz

You’ve probably seen the rather empowering meme doing the rounds – ‘What other people think of you is none of your business’.  I love that one!

I’ve realised recently that the opposite is also true.

Here’s how this all came into my head.

I post stuff wot I think on Facebook (as one does), and more times than not, people hop on and comment with their opposing view on many posts (especially the more interesting ones).  It got me thinking about when I do this and what is motivating me to try to get another person to change their mind

I also thought about the effect on me when my more interesting posts, the ones which speak in a true and passionate voice, are inevitably the ones which draw the most fire – but that’s a post for another day.

First, my own behaviour when I wade into somebody’s cyberspace all ‘but but but you’ve got that wrong’.

Journalling around this led me to some uncomfortable conclusions.

First of all, invariably something painful inside me was being ‘triggered’ by somebody’s post – so my response almost always came from a place of being upset or angered

Those feelings are messy and nobody wants them, but they are useful indicators of what’s happening in your inner world, and it does no good to ignore them (they just get louder, darn things).

My bestest 'I'm super angry at something somebody said on the Internetz' face. You like?

My bestest ‘I’m super angry at something somebody said on the Internetz’ face. You like?

So….. what I was doing was that, instead of dealing with my own triggered feelings (always the best plan – go and read some Jamie Catto if you want to learn more about this life-changing magic), I was making it about giving energy to the other person.

By taking on the futile task of arguing with somebody to change their mind, I could ignore my own pain and the work of healing it and instead focus on ‘being right’. 

Pointlessness alert!  Whoops!

So anyway, having made this discovery, what am I going to do about it?

Here’s what I’m trying now.  I’m not going to lie and say I manage it all or even most of the time, but I’m getting better every day.  

I encourage you to try this, if it feels right to you, next time you feel the urge to argue with somebody about their opinion.

Embrace the difference.

You don’t have to disagree, argue or debate or ‘reach a compromise’ with somebody who is seeing the world differently to you. It’s OK for us humans to be different. Really, it is.

You can scroll past.  You can go ‘gosh, that’s an interesting take on it’ and move on with your day.

As my friend Charlotte Farhan said when she read this ‘Who are you trying to convince anyway?’

Before you spend your energy on arguing or telling another person your opposing view, ask why you need that other person to think like you, or why you need them to understand you.

Almost every time the reason is something you need to deal with yourself, rather than giving your power and energy away to another person or making it about them.

Trying to change another person is often an act of violence. Think about it. Against them – and more importantly, against yourself.

But you ‘love a good debate’, I hear you say? OK.

Hidden under ‘I love a good debate’ can sometimes lurk all sorts of beasties – ego, pride, insecurity, neediness. Be honest with yourself about these. Sometimes these beasties are fabulous teachers, but not if they run amok in your life and relationships.

Love a good debate, by all means, but the minute that debate becomes violent (clue: you feel angry, judgemental or defensive or you start trying to hurt the other person either directly or passive aggressively) then beasties are running loose and it’s time to put a lead on them.

Energy spent trying to ‘change another person’ is almost always wasted energy. Think how hard it is to change even the simplest habit in yourself. Now multiply that by about a trillion and you have how hard it is to change another person.

The best way to put your truth out into the world is to speak it, create it and live it. That’s the best way to reach people’s hearts and make transformations there. Gently. Softly. By being brave enough to go to the uncomfortable places yourself and to share that with others.

On rare occasions another person’s worldview may impact on your life directly (usually family, sometimes people in positions of power over you). On those occasions, you still don’t need to agree. You still don’t need to ‘compromise’ in a way where you both lose out. Chances are there is a happy, splendid solution you can come up with together.

In pretty much all situations, you can also just choose to walk away or disengage. That’s your right. That’s fine.

We humans are born gloriously varied, because Nature loves to cover Her bases (and variety and diversity are strengths for any species).  Difference exists not because something is ‘wrong’ but because that’s how Nature works.

The Inevitable, Obvious But Probably Necessary Disclaimer:

I am talking here about people saying stuff on the interwebs, sharing their thoughts, opinions and experiences as they do most of the time.  I am not talking about people who use the internet to spread hate and intolerance.  Calling out sexism, racisim and other yukky isms is a thing we should all do.

If you do ‘The Work’ and examine your motives before engaging, it will soon become obvious to you how to call out the bad things – and clearer how to do it in a way which is productive and doesn’t just entrench the other person’s views.  Clue:  disagreeing publicly with somebody in front of all their friends probably won’t win them around to your way of thinking.  Just saying.


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