Pointing fingers and pig-headed fools

His public message to me was terse even by Twitter standards for brevity:

“@thehrgoddess Your tweets are drivel. #unfollow”

My first thought after reading that message was how rude.

Curious, I reread the tweet that prompted this attack (how I was feeling) – it was a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”

I love quotes. I see them as succinct storytelling at its best. So, in that frame of mind, I responded, “Guess you don’t share my love of quotes.”

To which he replied, “Didn’t expect you to respond but like I said they are drivel so don’t want to associate with you.”

How judgmental, shouted my brain. My feelings were a bit hurt, too. Thinking there was a lesson to be learned, I made a note in my ‘write about this’ file to explore what the exchange had meant to me.

Several months passed before that note surfaced and I began my research. Little did I realize at the inception of my writing how hard it would be to write about being judgmental without being judgmental myself. I didn’t see that result coming.

The road of life is rocky and you may stumble too. So while you point your fingers someone else is judging you. ~Bob Marley and The Wailers

As I read and reworked my draft, everything I wrote sounded sanctimonious and smug. The very attributes I had initially ascribed to drivel man. I found that circle shocking, insightful and pretty darn humbling. I had, as the poet William Blake wrote, opened the “doors of perception.”

In retrospect, my initial Twitter response to him smacked of unconscious judgment, implying there was something superior about loving quotes. When I wrote that, I was wallowing in the same mud as he, oblivious to the fact that we were warring with words and doing so within individual bubbles of self-perception. I obviously had much to learn in leading myself to avoid unintentional judgment.

I am firm, you are stubborn, he is a pig-headed fool. ~Bertrand Russell

As I thought more about assessing what people say and my doing so without coming across as self-righteous, three going-forward points surfaced:

Don’t confuse opinions with facts.  In my first response back, I implied that he, too, just like me should find value in quotes because that’s the right thing to do. Using words like should, right, wrong, fair, etc. convey a morally superior stance (my views are better than your views) which diminishes the other and closes the doors to learning, engaging and connecting.

Labels don’t build, they destroy. The gentleman’s use of the word “drivel” hit a hot button. Who wants to be labeled as silly nonsense?! We’re hard-wired to categorize so we can make quick sense of a complicated world. Yet using that hard-wiring to condone substandard behavior is an excuse. As character-based leaders, we have the power to over-rule and rethink our unconscious biases.

Let others find their own truth. So many of our life, love and leadership experiences push us toward either/or outcomes. I’m now going to be judgmental:  reducing our behaviors, thoughts and actions to either/or results is wrong. The path another takes may be different than mine. And that’s all it is – different, not better or worse, just different.

Except as we venture to create, we cannot project ourselves beyond ourselves to serve and lead. ~Robert Greenleaf