Dive 11: The friendship-building Superpower your enemies will hate you for
Hey, it’s Alvin!
I was on Twitter the other day when I watched two people I follow tussle a bit.
Their dialogue started poorly.
One person (let’s call him Andy) presented an idea. Then, the other person (let’s call him Danny) commented on how Andy expressed his idea poorly. For the rest of the exchange, I just saw two people talking past each other. One focused on the underlying idea; the other on the presentation.
There was no attempt at mutual understanding. Nothing productive emerged from it. Just, “I’m right. You’re an idiot.” It was a complete waste of time. And in one last act of passion-filled rage,
Danny blocked Andy.
Social media sites like Twitter make blocking super easy. On Twitter, it just takes a couple of clicks. Don’t get me wrong, Blocking is a necessary function. If someone is harassing or abusive, we want ways to stop interactions with them. And in a future edition of this newsletter, I’ll explore how we can assess whether someone wants to engage in civil discussion or just mess with you.
But being block-happy is harmful in ways people NEVER think about.
I’ll show you what I mean with an experience I had on Twitter. Along the way, I’ll share with you three stages we go through, from conflict to understanding: denial, acceptance, and unification.
Here’s a visual I tweeted a while back. In it, I said, “how fast you’re going doesn’t matter if you’re going the wrong way.” The visual has a header that says, “direction is greater than speed.” And it shows one car moving slowly to the left towards a checkered flag, and another speeding to the right off the cliff into the sea.
A fellow named Daso, quoted my tweet saying,
Disagree on this one. Fast matter & critical. Make sure you don’t die when you’re wrong.
Imagine you have a great idea and it took 3 years to implement it.
Or you have a bad idea but and takes 3 hours to bring it to the real world. Then you know it really is a bad idea.
It would’ve been easy for me to just ignore this reply. There weren’t many. I could’ve dismissed it as trash. I could’ve called Daso an idiot. After all, at least 200 people got the message, which was quite clear from my point of view. What’s he going on about?
Maybe he’s a troll. Maybe he’s trying to be a contrarian.
I could’ve restated my point. He would’ve restated his point. And we would’ve talked past each other until one of us blocked the other.
This is the stage I call:
It’s when we fail to understand a different viewpoint, so we do the easiest thing: deny it.
Danny and Andy were stuck in denial.
And for a while, so was I, with Daso’s opinion. But as I was typing up my reply, I noticed something… I struggled to form a logically consistent response. I wrote and rewrote reply after reply, but couldn’t send any of them. Writing revealed gaps in my understanding of something. I just couldn’t put my finger on what.
It also made me realize that if I wanted to form a cogent response, I needed to understand Daso’s opinion from Daso’s point of view.
What was Daso thinking? What was Daso really trying to say?
After some calm, collected analysis, I understood what Daso meant. Let’s say you’re making a product to sell. The faster you make the product, the sooner you’ll find out whether it can succeed. In his mind, speed is more important than direction because the faster you iterate on a solution, the faster you can course-correct to ensure you’re moving in the right direction.
This is the stage I call:
It’s when we accept another’s perspective as valid.
Wait… does that mean I was wrong all along?
I find too many people answer, “yes,” and call it a day. They throw their hands up in the air and say, “well, I guess my former thinking was wrong, and my new point of view is right!”
But that’s lazy, binary thinking.
If you find yourself at this stage, I’d like to challenge you to push just a bit further because something magical happens when you do.
The world is a colourful, nuanced place. Maybe you’re both right.
I knew deep down inside that my point of view was valid. The illustration spoke for itself. But, now, I can also see that Daso’s point of view is also valid.
How did I reconcile these two conflicting points of view?
I asked myself, “in what context(s) is Daso right? And in what context(s) am I right?”
After some more thinking, I realized the fundamental difference in our viewpoints. Daso’s definition of speed differed from mine. That’s it. And I shared my understanding with Daso:
That’s a fair point, but assumes you’re working in iterations tracked to a goal. In your case,
speed = # iterations / time.
In my defense, the illustration does not make those assumptions. 😜
Most consider: speed = work done / time.
This final stage is what I call:
It’s when you take two ideas that seem contradictory on the surface and dive deeper into identifying their commonalities. In doing so, you gain a deep understanding of both ideas and the specific contexts in which they’re both valid.
This is one of the hardest things to do. It takes practice and it won’t always work, but it’s important to try.
Because in doing so, you’re not just unifying ideas, you’re unifying PEOPLE.
I never blocked Daso, and Daso never blocked me. Our conversation ended amicably, with mutual understanding.
If I acted like Danny, stopping at denial, I would’ve missed out on the wealth of knowledge I gained. I would’ve tarnished a relationship. I would’ve missed an opportunity to grow.
If I stopped with acceptance, I would’ve assumed my original point of view was wrong—which would’ve been the wrong conclusion, too.
And this is the critical flaw with being “block-happy.” When it’s easy to block others, it’s easy to dismiss and deny others we merely disagree with. But when we do that, we limit ourselves. We end up surrounding ourselves only with those who agree with us. And we increasingly see those with different viewpoints as people who need to be kept away—we see them as “enemies.”
That is how block buttons create conflict.
I hope you enjoyed this dive Below the Surface on block buttons and conflicts. Reply to email@example.com if you have questions or comments. Let me know how you dealt with similar conflicts. I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day. And I’ll see you in the next one.