[Advice] No More Accidents

Here’s an observable fact:

Many people (though not all) are just fine with the outcomes they are getting from their communication styles.

Many people (though not all) are comfortable with the disagreements, differences of opinion, conflicts, verbal fights, tensions, stresses and other outcomes that result from engaging in dysfunctional—and sometimes damaging—communication on a daily basis.

Many people (though not all) are just fine with letting communication happen by accident, taking a reactive—rather than responsive—stance and not really thinking about the impact that a word, a phrase, or even an idea may have upon another person.

Many people (though not all) are just fine not thinking strategically about how they communicate, rather than focusing obsessively over whether or not what they communicated got across to the other person.

Many people (though not all) find it to be more emotionally, psychologically, psychically, and even physically, comfortable to sort of just “go with the flow” and not to engage intentionally with communication patterns in their own lives—at work, at home, or even at school.

Yesterday, following a training in a local workplace, a woman told a story.

She said: “There was a supervisor working here who left recently. She said that everyone here was mean to her. She told me before she walked out the door, that I needed to ‘think outside the box more.’

I don’t know if she meant the comment to be hurtful or not, but I was hurt by it, and I have been thinking about it ever since. And it’s really hard to change the box you’re in if you can’t even see it.”

Many people (though not all) are ready to change their responses to observable facts, once they become aware of the facts they’re in.

[Strategy] The Law of Compound Interest

The fact of the matter is no one can truly penetrate another person’s conflict experience.

We have fooled ourselves into thinking that, with all the social proofing via digital tools, and the peacock-like social media displays that we all put on every day, that we know other people’s inner lives.

But we don’t.

This is why we’re often surprised when a person casts aside the carefully constructed false mask of their digital life and shows the warts and all. We become fascinated, not with the honesty and truth, not even with the vulnerability; we become fascinated with the act of being honest and vulnerable. But we shy away from interacting with that person on a deeper level.

Conflicts, disagreements, “differences of opinion,” frustrations, expose this dichotomy in a person-to-person, face-to-face interaction. We want the other person to change (I had a person in a workshop recently ask me “Why shouldn’t the other person see that I’m angry!? Why shouldn’t they see that they’ve pissed me off!?”) because we want an outcome that benefits us in the short-term.

Without really unwinding the gossamer of strands that got us into that situation with that person in the first place.

The law of compound interest is particularly instructive when thinking about this. The law basically states that interest—over time—compounds slowly and inexorably, a quarter point or so at a time. Until, when the party who owes finally takes an interest in paying back the loaned amount of money, the interest has built up to such a point that they can’t. The law of compound interest is what led many in the ancient world to despise money-lenders (religious prohibitions against usury), or on the opposite scale, to lend money out at outrageous terms and then when the amount plus interest could not be paid back, to frame the lack of payment in moral terms and throw the borrower (and even their families) out of a community (debtors’ prisons).

The law of compound interest applies just as keenly when thinking about how the responses and reactions to conflicts, disagreements, “differences of opinion,” and frustrations build up over time, until the reaction from both parties is to explode in anger—or shut-down into passivity. There is no resolution from such cycles of build-up, explosion, retreat, build-up, because every new cycle builds up new strands of complication as surely as compound interest builds on the loan principle of the the conflict. Until it’s so big and heavy that banishment from a community—or a situation, or a relationship—seems like the only answer.

Engaging with conflict in this mental and emotional framework seems scary and requires a person to be as vulnerable as they would have to be if they ceased to perform for a digital audience of “friends” and began to get honest and vulnerable. Resolving the conflict in this mental and emotional framework seems easy because resolution implies a release of the tension, compounded over time, from the uncomfortable friction of “dealing with this person.”

But all the tactics and strategies; all the tools and the verbal jujitsu; all the “hacks” and improvements; all the surface engagement and “easy” resolution; all of these things are just methods to avoid vulnerability, to indulge in the satisfaction of releasing our anger as a weapon rather than as a tool, and in the end only compound the problem, one quarter point at a time.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Opinion] Manipulation, Deceit and Disagreement in the Digital Age

When most information can be known about other people via the swipe of a finger, the click of an Internet search, or through scrolling through a social media feed, how is it that so many people can still be deceived?

This is not really an information based question, this is a question about one of the key components of persuasion in the digital age, the dark side of it, if you will, deception and manipulation.

When only a few people and organizations used to hold the keys to both Truth and Power, it was hard to find out facts that disagreed with whatever the dominant narrative happened to be. Speaking truth to power was not an exercise for the faint of heart, either in a family, a community, or even in a municipality.

But, after over 25 years of commercialized Internet access to the masses, information (about people, ideas, processes, services, and on and on) seems hard to come by, rendering many people suspicious that they are being deceived but no quite knowing how. This feeling leads to the creation of various digital “tribes” that do battle to “correct the record” and “make the facts known.” But, at the end of the conflict, everything seems murkier than when the disagreement initially began and the residue of mistrust and anger lingers in the air.

  • Are we more deceived, or more informed?
  • Are we more oblivious, or more “tuned in?”
  • Are we more selective (“owning our own facts”) or are we more open to hearing and contemplating the “other side.”
  • Do disagreements and disputes have more weight online than they do in “real life” and if so, why?
  • Does anonymity and privacy lead to manipulation and deceit, or are they the only tools the powerless have to call the powerful to task?
  • What is the middle ground?

There are no easy, quick, or definitive answers to these questions. And after 150 years of “The Industrialization of everything” from education to social services, we in the Western world have been inculcated to believe that quick and definitive is the “new normal,” rather than being aware that, for many questions, there is more ambiguity than there are answers.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/