Do You Take Offense?

by Jay Deragon on 11/30/2010

Disagreements can take two distinctive routes. One route is to argue why you disagree with someone’s statement and do so logically rather than emotionally or egotistically. The other route is to think  a disagreement is a personal attack and argue your position from a perspective of self-preservation.

Some people will take offense to what you know but they don’t know or believe. You can see it throughout the blogosphere. People criticizing others for a position, a practice or a statement that evokes an offense to others. The root of an offense is an egotistical self-centered response which “thinks” it knows better than another and being offended by someone who disagrees with your position is simply a way of exercising an ego.

Learning to Disagree

Online interactions can create lots of disagreement.  Sometimes, the disagreement will be over minor issues where we can easily ignore the disagreement. Sometimes, however, we will disagree quite strongly about an issue that is fundamental to our individual knowledge domain. The blogsphere is filled with different knowledge domains around numerous issues that create difference perspectives and beliefs. The top ten issues that create the most disagreement  include:

  1. Social media’s role in marketing
  2. Measuring the ROI of social media
  3. Metrics for measuring one’s influence
  4. Use of social media within an enterprise
  5. Personal and professional branding issues
  6. Social commerce and social currency
  7. Whether CEO’s should be using social media
  8. The right and wrong ways to use social media
  9. How to monitor social media inside and outside the organization
  10. The future of the web

Knowledge domains that are personally important to people’s persona usually produce an emotional response to those that want to challenge our domain. Once we become emotional about an issue, we tend towards behaviors that escalate the conflict rather than resolve it. We attack the other person’s character or intelligence. We dismiss their perspective as irrational or stupid. In short, we think we have to protect our knowledge domain because we believe it represents who we are and our importance.  When protection becomes a motivator we become disagreeable when our knowledge is threatened.

When we become disagreeable, we usually trigger a similar response in the other person so that we move towards separation and paralysis instead of towards action and resolution. When we can agree to disagree, we can set the disagreement aside in the interest of continuing to work together, a relationship. We don’t forget the issue. We just don’t let it get in the way of possibly expanding our knowledge by enabling others to share theirs with us.

Disagreeable Relations

Are there times when we cannot continue to engage with others because of a disagreement? Yes. If we have to violate our core principles or ethical standards to move forward with the other person, we should stand firm or consider ending the relationship. Sometimes we all reach this conclusion. However we should  not to reach that conclusion too quickly or rashly. We should not take a stand on “principle” when we simply disagree about different knowledge domains and which domain is correct.

If we  want to advance future possibilities then we all need to learn to disagree without being disagreeable. After all  knowledge is fluid and not static. Thus what we think we know today may not have any relevance tomorrow. Relevancy in a marketplace of fluid change is learning and creating new knowledge from change.

Taking offense because your knowledge may no longer be relevant is akin to believing you have learned everything there is to know. You have not nor could you ever!

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