Here's what happened
Our story begins with a lady who's about twice my age who I found myself engaged in conversation with on LinkedIn.
I mention the age gap because I can only guess she thought she could talk the way that she did to me because I have "Gen Z" in my profile.
Anyway, truth be told, it wasn't actually much of a conversation.
Someone I follow who provides sound, no-nonsense advice and truth made a post about work. One of the things he said was:
"Employers don't care about you."
It sounds silly by itself, but he mentioned other things like how they can lay you off at any moment and that statements along the lines of "we are family" can be used to convince you to do things like overwork yourself.
This lady left a comment about how most of what he said was right, except for the fact that "small business owners do care about you." A LOT, she said.
While I can see where she might've been coming from, I offered a different perspective.
I asked her if she thinks small business owners genuinely care about their employees, or if they really "care" because they can't afford high staff turnover.
In other words, do small business owners care about their employees because of some ulterior motive? If they don't show their employees that they care enough, their employees could leave, and staff turnover for a small business is especially costly.
It was a genuine question, and I even admitted in the comment that while it could be seen as a pessimistic take, I wanted to make sure that we looked at the other side of the coin.
Because, you know, it's important that we don't just blindly consume content. It's not a sin to challenge other peoples' viewpoints, especially when done respectfully, which I did.
I ended on a note of inviting her to reply with what her thoughts were on what I said.
The ice-cold reply
I was taken aback by her response.
Her opening sentence in her reply basically said:
"You're not a small business owner like I am, so I'm qualified to make a statement on this and you're not."
"I care," she went on, rather curtly. "Every CEO I know cares and loses sleep making sure their clients are satisfied."
Now, I didn't even know she was a small business owner, and it wasn't apparent in her bio, so there was no room for me to even frame my comment as an attack toward her.
Her following statement sealed my negative impression of her.
"The last thing small business owners need is BS like this and to be questioned by perspectives like yours."
She then said that she could tag her entire network of people as proof, but that she "had a small business to run" and didn't have the time to, and then left me with a sarcastic winky face.
I had to stare at this comment for a few minutes before I could even respond.
I eventually wrote that I was sorry she felt that my comment was "BS" and uncomfortably "questioning," but that it's important that we examine other very real realities and perspectives.
I've worked with small business owners before, and I know not every single one of them cares about all their employees significantly and not in the way that she described.
I left on the note that I was also sorry it seemed like she felt my question was somehow an attack on her, and then I bid her a good day.
An enemy of dialogue is an enemy of mine
Here's my issue with her and her behavior, conveniently broken down in three mistakes.
She immediately assumed that simply because I offered a different perspective I was somehow attacking her.
Any time you engage in any conversation with a human being, you need to remember something:
Her reply was laced with a subtle, yet undeniably present venom.
Here was this kid "questioning" her integrity and it was her job to save face on behalf of all small business owners.
I'm not sure where she felt so attacked with what I commented, and the tone in her reply was quite uncalled for, to say the least.
Not only did she immediately completely misinterpret my question as an attack, which is Mistake #1, but she also disqualified my perspective simply because I didn't fit into the category of what was being discussed.
Here’s her 2nd mistake.
To be fair, the exact words that she used were that her perspective "weighed more" than mine because she was a small business owner.
But here's the lesson in healthy conversation that she clearly missed:
I genuinely cannot recall at any point in my entire life, whether in conversation with someone or by myself, where I've said that someone's perspective doesn't matter as much as mine.
That's an awfully arrogant thing to say.
Someone's argument may not be as solid or as effective as yours, but that doesn't mean you can exclude them from the conversation.
If you don't see how arrogant and silly this sounds, let me throw you some sentences:
- "You're not a man, so your take on men doesn't mean as much as mine."
- "You're not a woman, so you can't make comments on womens' behavior."
- "You don't work in education, so you can't make statements on the flaws of the current education system."
- "You don't work in the government, so you can't complain about how things are being run."
If you didn't understand why I felt the need to write an article about this, perhaps now you do.
And finally, her big mistake #3 was attempting to dismiss and bury my perspective entirely because it didn't align with her precious viewpoint of the world.
"The last thing we need is people like you questioning us."
Let's see how well you agree with that sentiment in other scenarios, like when it comes from the government.
Here's how this works.
If you shut down dialogue just because someone disagrees with you, then you don't get to dialogue either.
That's why it's called "dialogue." If you want to talk to yourself and not hear from anyone else, go monologue.
You don't leave a comment on a social media platform, get pissed off when someone disagrees with you, and then try to shut down their perspective and consequently, the conversation. Especially when they've presented their viewpoint respectfully.
I'll tell you something else.
In other words, you'll never be in the right if you can't handle a naked face-to-face debate between your idea and someone else's.
And anyone who shuts down dialogue and only wants to scream to the rest of the world that they're right is a fool. And not in the good sense, either.
An enemy of dialogue is an enemy of mine.
There's this quote that I like to share with people:
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." – Evelyn Beatrice Hall
As distasteful as I found this woman's behavior, I would never call for her to be silenced.
People should always have a voice.
You should still be careful with what you say and how you say it, though.
That said, I personally won't engage in any form of relationship or conversation with anyone who reacts to respectfully proffered disagreement with the way this woman did.
It's silly to me how emotional this person got over my invitation to dialogue with a different perspective, but to be fair, I wrote this article because I was a little upset myself about this whole interaction.
The most important thing I want people to take away from this is understanding these 3 things:
- Someone challenging your viewpoint is not the same as them attacking you.
- If you want to have civil and respectful discourse with someone, the last thing you wanna do is imply or state that their perspective doesn't matter or mean as much as yours.
- You don't shut down a dialogue when someone disagrees with you. You'll never be right that way.
Here's one more thing to remember:
Never stop disagreeing.
I've spent many years bearing witness to people who were too afraid to disagree, too afraid to stand out, too afraid to be different.
They lost themselves in conformity and joined the flock of sheep that break the rules, think they're cool, and lose themselves in a fervent pursuit to become popular and likable.
Being afraid to disagree:
- Ruins your relationships. Nobody likes a complete pushover.
- Makes you dishonest. You're not telling people what you really think.
- Lowers your confidence. You can't stand up for what you truly believe in.
- Makes you boring and unoriginal. You're just one of the crowd.
Stand on your own two feet. Disagree where necessary.
But don't be a dick about it.