HIT Piece 4.25.2017

By | Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, HIT Pieces, New Posts, Relationships, Resolution, Social Communication, Truth

The closer we get to the truth of an issue, which typically lies at the center of a universe of distortions, fabrications, and sometimes outright lies, the more difficult our conversations with all the other parties involved, become.

The way to resolve this tension is not through avoiding difficult conversations and difficult parties.

The solution is to recognize the tension and dance with the fear that we have of outcomes that hew close to the truth of an issue.

Avoidance is fine as a temporary tactic, but as a long-term strategy to get to the truth of a conflict; well, no one ever avoided their way to an uncomfortable—but necessary—truth.

HIT Piece 3.14.2017

By | Emotional Intelligence, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, HIT Pieces, New Posts, The Future & The Singularity, Truth

I’m typing this and you’re probably reading it on a mobile device.

One of the things rarely commented on is how reading comprehension—that is understanding and integrating a concept that you have read about into your overall life experience—has changed since the rise of the Internet as well as the rise of mobile phone use.

We often comment on the nature of reading and the nature of where content gets consumed and why, but the comprehension issue is so often assumed in readers that it’s rarely ever brought up.

Outside of teaching circles (and the circles of parents lamenting) the loss of cursive writing—or handwriting—as a practice taught in schools almost never gets the media ink (or digital bytes) that it seems to warrant.

But, I see this in my students that I teach: Increasingly, there is a lack of patience for the skill of writing by hand, carefully making letters that are intelligible to other readers. Usually, when an assignment must be handwritten, I get back sheepish looks with apologies attached about “chicken scratch” and “carpal tunnel.” I also get the same feedback from training groups featuring older adults who push back because I don’t put bullet points on my PowerPoint slides and I leave plenty of room in their training manuals that I design for them to take notes by hand.

Reading and understanding and hand writing are intricately linked in the human mind to learning, retention, memorization, and comprehension.

They are also intimately linked to patience, critical awareness, and deep thought.

We lose a lot by losing the ability or interest in writing by hand because the other option seem faster and “easier.” When we begin to value speed and volume over comprehension and patience we run the risk of valuing end results in spite of the process to get there, and we open the door to more conflicts flaring more brightly and for longer.

HIT Piece 3.7.2017

By | Emotional Intelligence, Blog, Entrepreneurship, HIT Pieces, New Posts, Organizational Development, Truth, Workplace, Workplace Development

Here’s the thing:

The only person at work who can change the culture of where you work, is you.

The only person who can manage adults as if they are adults, are other adults acting like adults.

The only person who can ensure that products, ideas, and innovations ship on time, is you.

Here’s the other thing:

If you believe that your boss has more responsibility, power, and accountability than you do (or if you believe that you should get more credit, and not take any blame if things go wrong) then you will doggedly pursue advancing in a toxic work environment.

If you believe that managing adults as if they are adults (instead of tolerating, condoning or ignoring childish behavior) is the purview of someone in human resources, and not you, then you will be constantly frustrated by conflicts in the workplace.

If you believe that your responsibility is not to “ship” but instead is to show up and turn a widget in a machine that you don’t really want to contribute to understanding, then you are preparing yourself inevitably for much larger problems in the future.

Here’s the conclusion:

The only person who can prepare for a future they can’t see, and prepare to do work that matters, and engage with hard, taxing emotional labor that pays off many tomorrows from now, but not today, is you.

It’s always been you.

This should be a thought that frees you, but for so many, the thought imprisons them further.

What’s that thought doing to you?

HIT Piece 11.29.2016

By | Advice, Blog, HIT Pieces, New Posts, Old Posts, Presentations, Speaking, Truth

Sometimes a presentation doesn’t “work.”

Sometimes there’s no connection with the audience.

Sometimes the presenter talks more to themselves than they listen to the crowd.

Sometimes questions aren’t asked (or answered) by the audience or the presenter.

Sometimes there is no active listening on the part of the audience.

Sometimes there is no active listening on the part of the presenter.

Sometimes the content is not what the audience expected.

Sometimes the content is not what the presenter expected.

Sometimes personalities clash.

Sometimes the content is exactly what the audience needs to hear, but not in the way that they need to hear it.

Sometimes the presentation is just a failure, and there’s nothing that the audience (or the presenter) can do at all to “fix” it.

Sometimes trying again, with a different audience, is enough.

 

HIT Piece: 10.11.2016 -“For” You, or “To” You

By | Advice, Blog, Facebook, Google, HIT Pieces, New Posts, Old Posts, Privacy, Social Communication, Social Media, Strategy, Technology, The Future & The Singularity, Truth, Twitter, Twitter, Website

The government (and the corporations that consort with it through lobbying efforts) can’t provide every service, fulfill every need, and relieve every want for every individual.

The government (and the corporations that consort with it through lobbying efforts) can be hampered from taking away rights and encouraging responsibility, from individuals.

One perspective is known as “positive rights” and the other perspective is known as “negative rights.”

In online interactions with corporations that are coalescing and acting like “real-world” mega-corporations (consorting with, and lobbying against or for, government policies and such) the issue in conversations around online anonymity is whether or not you believe that those mega-corporations should do for you, or should not do to you.

“For” you, or “to” you.

The preposition makes a difference.

If you believe that Google should do for you, then you will gladly give over your private data without a thought, to companies that view you as a product, and your privacy and anonymity as an afterthought.

If you believe that Facebook should not do to you, then you will be savvy about what you reveal online, where you reveal it, and to what company you give access to your data. You will interact with companies on the Internet who view you as a customer, and your privacy and anonymity as their first thought.

The preposition makes a difference.

If you believe that SnapChat should do for you, then you will gladly stay inside the walls of that communication garden, adopt the rules of the garden without thinking, and will complain when the rules of the garden are changed—as they inevitably will be—because you didn’t build SnapChat. Evan Speigel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown did.

If you believe that Dropbox should not do to you, then you will gladly pay for their premium service which protects your anonymity and expands company revenues in ways that allow it to continue to grow, because you will realize that you aren’t the product. The cloud storage is the product. And you won’t get caught the next time there’s a data breach.

The preposition makes a difference.

If you believe that AirBnB should do for you, then you will gladly applaud as they make changes to who can use their app as a part of their service, to reflect current political and social considerations based in long-simmering cultural passions, rather than revenue based considerations.

If you believe that Uber should not do to you, then you will sign petitions to bring Uber to your town, while also insisting on anonymity in driver data, protection from harassment from incumbents such as taxi drivers and others, and encourage the founders to develop robust responses to charges of sexual assault by drivers in countries not America.

The preposition makes a difference.

If you believe that the Internet should do for you, then you will happily engage with the Internet as a finite communication and connection tool. You will be happy inside walled communications (Skype), commodity (Gmail), and collaboration (GoToMeeting) gardens, and you won’t explore much further than those gardens. Because the Internet has too many options, is too confusing, changes too fast, and is too chaotic and scary to make an informed decision about services or products.

If you believe that the Internet should not do to you, then you will read blogs that have only been read by under 100 people or so, you will mourn the death of RSS feeds and will manage your email subscriptions carefully, and you will be unhappy with the “walled gardens” that the majority insist upon using. Because the Internet is infinite, never-ending, and like any other communication tool, requires self-control to manage, intuition and critical thinking to navigate, and patience to address on its own terms.

“For” you, or “to” you.

The preposition makes a difference.

When considering issues of online anonymity, harassment, bullying, bad behavior, privacy concerns, data breaches, and all the other unethical and illegal behavior being engaged in by individuals and corporations, the understanding of the difference in the meaning behind the preposition matters.

HIT Piece 9.20.2016

By | Blog, HIT Pieces, New Posts, Old Posts, Technology, Truth

Technology changes are comparatively easy to predict.

The computer.

The fax machine.

The interstellar rocket.

The airplane.

The cell phone.

The drones.

The lie detector.

The biometric scan.

The electric car.

The driverless car.

The internet.

These are just some of the technologies that were developed, conceived, proposed, or prototyped in early to middle part of the last century and now have come to full commercial fruition in our time.

Societal changes based in changing behavior and ideas (economic, social, political, etc.) are less easy to predict.

The rise and fall of cigarette smoking.

Women in the workplace.

Gay marriage.

Minority civil rights.

The illegalization of drug use.

The end of child labor.

Prohibition.

The move of manufacturing away from the US.

The rise of globalism.

Mass genocide.

Mass immigration movement.

The rise of religious based radicalism.

The fall of the British Empire.

The rise and fall of Soviet Communism.

Until we can predict how people will use the technology they now have (i.e. Twitter) in conjunction with behavioral changes at the societal level (i.e. Black Lives Matter) to create a future where half of that equation stubbornly refuses to be examined (behavioral changes at the societal level) we will remain blind to future changes, surprised by black swans, and bound to hindsight biases.

And we’ll get no closer to being able to predict the future than we are now.

HIT Piece 9.13.2016: Facebook-as-the-Internet

By | Emotional Intelligence, Blog, Entrepreneurship, Facebook, HIT Pieces, New Posts, Old Posts, Platform Building, Privacy, Social, Social Communication, Social Media, Technology, The Future & The Singularity, Truth

You are probably going to read this post by clicking on a link from Facebook, if you read this at all.

More likely than not, you won’t read this if you see it posted on LinkedIn (it seems too arduous to click on an article, thus the increase of click-bait recently on the platform).

If you happen to see the link to the blog post on Twitter (I didn’t pay for it to trend, nor do I have enough heft to cut through the constant firehose of information on the platform) you most likely won’t read it either.

These three platforms (along with Google) have created an environment of ease of access, shareability of information, and have grown through social proofing (“Everybody else is there, so I must be there as well”) that their influence as media companies is now being seriously discussed by media companies still around from the 20th century.

This leads to three problems, beyond the obvious ones though:

  1. There are biases evident in both the algorithms that run these platforms (as usual, computer models and programs are created by human beings, and human beings have biases) but that phenomenon is compounded by the fact that the people using the platform the most have their own biases. The real struggle is not to get more human curators to do the work of curating that an algorithm is programmed to do. The real struggle for both human curators and the human programmed algorithms running in the background of these platforms, is to educate and inform the audience using the platforms in spite of their biases.
  2. Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pintrest, Snapchat, and on and on, are not the Internet. They are applications built atop the Internet. By only accessing information through these silos (the search engine Duck Duck Go actually gives better results than Google) the “lock-in” effect gets deeper and deeper in the person doing the search. This can be a positive. But it can also create myopia, willful ignorance, and a lack of curiosity about the world outside of these platforms.
  3. In the future, the social media and information communication platforms built on top of the Internet will become more fractured, not less. This is the reaction/response to the first two problems, and to solving the problem inherent in the sentence that opened this post. Eventually, more and more niche audiences, being less and less served by the platforms built at “mass” (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, et.al) will seek information out on the long-tail of options. There will be some reverting back to what came before social media (i.e. chatrooms, discussion boards, email listservs (I’m on two or three) and other tools) but eventually, niche audiences will seek access to their own silos outside the megaphone of established social media platforms.

Note, I did not say that these platforms would be profitable, popular to the masses, or easy for outsiders to integrate to and use. Reddit is already like this to some degree in its resistance to monetization, its relative openness, and its vain efforts to curtail its core users’ language and political preferences.

But as every woman seeks the promise behind being her own information queen, the seduction inherent in getting away from Facebook-as-the-Internet will grow in popularity and promise.

A Treatise on the Evil in the Human Heart

By | Active Listening, Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Culture, Dysfunction, Education, Emotional Intelligence, HIT Pieces, Leadership, New Posts, Old Posts, Opinions, Peacemaker, Privacy, Problem Solving, Reconciliation, Relationships, Resolution, Social Communication, Strategies, Strategy, Stress, Truth, Virtue

Jesan Sorrells of Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)

Some of the things that I am about to express today may offend you.

Some of the things that I am about to express may not apply to you.

But either way, they are statements, ideas, and conclusions, that have not been discussed enough lately in the discourse that has been permeating our long, national narrative for at least the last twenty-five years, but they are present most recently in our national non-discourse, since the death of a man in St. Louis last year.

Or maybe it was the death of a young boy in Florida.

The deaths are only the latest example of human beings engaged in the ultimate conflict—violence—with each other, as a way to resolve issues.

These deaths are troubling, but not for the obvious reasons that drive social media communications, meme generations, outraged postings, declaratory blog posts, media declarations, and the fake outrage of television pundits, entertainment celebrities, and social justice advocates.

These deaths are troubling because, instead of drawing the American (and global) population closer together, they (and their immediate, reactionary aftermath) seem to only drive people further apart, into separate camps, meme-ing and glowering at each other with outrageous social media declarations about “unfriending” people who disagree.

Their deaths are troubling because the underlying issue beneath of all of these deaths is never truly talked about, examined, or dissected.

Maybe because that issue appears to “obvious,” to “easy” to deal with, or perhaps, the issue appears to be so unsophisticated to our contemporary minds, that it overwhelms us with the depth of its simplicity.

But, much like Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is often the most accurate one.

But not the easiest one to solve.

[Opinion] The Dark Heart of Man

***

 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” ― Aleksandr SolzhenitsynThe Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

Discussion about the depth, breadth, and nature of the problem of human evil—and changing the hearts and minds of the people who have a propensity to do evil rather than to do good—gets less and less sweeping media coverage of any kind these days.

Collectively, we have decided in the United States (with much of the rest of the world not far behind)—that people (both individually and at scale) will just be perfect (or can at least be coerced into being good) if enough laws are passed, if enough people are socially sanctioned and made uncomfortable about holding and expressing uncomfortable opinions, and if the public responds quickly enough to get outsiders to straighten up.

We believe the Rousseauian myth (though he was not the first to express it) that man is driven to commit evil because of inequalities in society (a society, of course built by imperfect men) that manifest through the disparate gossamer of poverty, racism, sexism, or whatever phobia there is of the moment.

Culturally, we accept that the root of human evil is not based in a soul fallen through the curse of Original Sin (I mean…who wants to talk about sin?), but instead we believe that evil lies somewhere buried in deep in all of the social structures humans have invented, built and maintained over time.

We genuinely believe that if we just change the structures, either gradually or immediately, that justice will be meted out, that death will come only to the guilty, and that peace and freedom without consequence will reign.

And that would be a fine, worthy set of beliefs to pursue, if they weren’t proven catastrophically wrong, time, and time again.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Aaron Burr shooting Alexander Hamilton in a meaningless duel over politics, honor, and expedience.

The Hutus and the Tutsis engaged in genocidal mass slaughter with machetes in Rwanda in the 1990’s.

All over the world today, children wake up and are abused, beaten, and even worse, on their way to adulthoods, where they will continue the patterns of senseless abuse with their children.

A few days ago, a man shot police officers doing their job.

A few days before that, a man was shot in a traffic stop.

A few weeks before that, a man shot 50 people in a nightclub who weren’t bothering anybody.

A few months before that, a child was shot in a neighborhood scuffle.

And for years upon years, the crime rate in major cities in America has been ticking ever so slowly downward, even as the heinousness of the crimes that created public ripples through immediate reporting shock us even more with their depravity.

A few days ago, a college student got drunk and raped another college student.

A few years ago, cocaine, and then crack addiction were tearing up cities with murders, thefts, and all other manner of depravity.

And now heroin is doing the same thing, in “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” rural areas populated by the poor, the abused, and the neglected.

A few decades ago, some cops pulled a man out of a car in LA and beat him, seemingly without provocation—and no one put down the camera to stop them.

A few decades ago, violent riots swept through cities, following an endless spate of assassinations that no government entity could prevent.

In the 1930’s a government put the pressure to its own citizens and ultimately drove many of them into gas chambers, putting the horrifyingly apt title of The Final Solution to a process that had previously had no designation, other than the term pogrom, going back into the Middle Ages.

The examples overwhelm because at the bottom, they are about the depravity and evil of the human heart, which is desperately wicked, desperately ego-driven and selfish, and desperately desirous to do whatever may come to mind unto others without consequence, rather than having anything done unto them.

The typical, rule/sanction based bulwarks of religion, government, and even social sanctioning are gradually losing their ability to sway people away from committing individual acts of evil. Paradoxically, they are gradually swinging toward passively supporting, more and more, collectively larger acts of systemic institutional evil, because, as the Founding Fathers noted in the Declaration of Independence “…all experience has shown, that mankind is more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

And as the rule/sanction moorings fall away, one by one, the only thing that is left between people are relationships; the ties that bind, as it were. And even those are tenuous, at best, without something else buttressing them.

Do black lives matter?

Do white lives matter?

Do cop lives matter?

Do civilian lives matter?

Do children’s lives matter?

Do women’s lives matter?

Do men’s lives matter?

Do rich people’s lives matter?

Do poor people’s lives matter?

Does changing the human heart matter?

Does it start with you?

Peace Begins with You

***

And now we are at the crux of the current manifestation of the age-old matter in our digital age.

No hashtag ever changed a thing.

In person change has always been fraught with difficulty, misunderstandings, miscommunications, negative escalations, and conflicts. When people talk with each other face-to-face there is always the opportunity for confusion and conflict, particularly if the conversation in question is questioning deeply held stories around values, worldviews, and frames.

It takes a lot of emotional quickening to escalate from a conversation to a confrontation to a conflict to a fistfight to a war. There are many discrete steps in face-to-face communication that social norming has established, developed, and refined for thousands of years to limit such escalation. But, as is always the case, human beings’ tools for communication get better, friction and misunderstanding increases, even as the speed of communication increases, and conflicts flare up.

From carrier pigeons to riders on horseback to the telephone to mail by airplane to emails and now Twitter, there have always been people who would rather fight to hold onto the status quo in their hearts, than take a risk and explore a different way. As the speed of our tools has increased how fast we get a message and then react to it, (going from days or weeks to micro-seconds) there hasn’t been a commensurate increase in the heart of rational contemplation.

Thus we get to social media communication.

The collective social media population reacts within seconds to an offense that culminates publicly only after brewing deeply in a human heart for years, and then uses the immediacy of social communication tools to psychologically manipulate people on the other end of the message into reacting rather than thinking.

And there’s really only two reactions available: fight or flight.

Not a measured argument.

Not a reasonable discourse.

Not knowledge or growth.

They are looking for either a respondent’s heels or their fangs.

In the case of the Internet, and the communication tools we have built on top of it, we have exchanged immediacy for escalation, and have confused personal passion driven by our reactions for legitimacy of an assertion.

Ease of access to digital tools also allows our solutions to deeply heart-based problems to be focused on the tawdry and the spectacle—which is short term—instead of the deliberative and the reasonable—which is long-term.

No hashtag ever saved a child.

Our desire to comment, burn, and react on the basis of spectacle, indicates that the type of communication we desire is that which will be friction free, painless, non-relationally based communication, when we want it, how we want it, that allows us to do what we want, when we want, how we want.

But this is an inherently selfish and vain position, a reaction from deep in the human heart to strike immediately at those who hurt us. A reaction that culminates in employing the phraseology of escape (“Please “unfriend” me if you disagree with me”) rather than the language of understanding, compassion, and recognition that we are all fallen.

We are all in need of justice with mercy, compassion with understanding, and reconciliation without strings.

No hashtag ever made a traffic stop less dangerous, or more dangerous.

Online communication will always be fraught with difficulty and no amount of changing a name policy, policing speech we don’t like, or building walls and doors into our platforms (or our physical lives), is going to prevent than difficulty.

The solution to all of this, as with most things, lies in changing the motivations, the drives, and the worrying tendencies deep in the dark heart of man. But we cannot begin this change under our own power.

My long, troubled, questioning journey through physics, philosophy, politics, and even religion, has convinced me that the solution to the all of these motivations, drives, and worrying tendencies, endlessly repeated from one news cycle to another, lies first in individually establishing a heart-felt, meaningful, personal relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer, reading the Bible, and joining with others in community of all races, genders, orientations, and beliefs.

But many people (some of whom are my friends on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms) are unwilling to believe that the solution to all of this depravity is this simple. Some of you (if you’ve made it this far) will probably be vehemently disagreeing with me. Some of you will be confusing the ineffective, rule/sanction based bulwark of religion, with meaningful relationship with other people in Christ.

I welcome your feedback.

I am friends (and nominal associates) with all manner of races, sexual orientations, political positions, and religious/non-religious people on many social platforms. I do not run from disagreement on this conclusion, and I welcome questioning.

Because I am talking about relationships.

Real ones.

When you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, not a rule based relationship, you don’t go it a nightclub and shoot people. No matter how egregious their life choices may seem to you in the natural.

When you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, you pray for those who have wronged you racially, ethnically, and socially, and you let those prayers change your mindsets, behaviors and attitudes before you put on your policing uniform.

When you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, you let that relationship determine when to disobey (civilly) those in authority, when to obey (in civilly) those in authority, and when to let God sort it out.

When you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, you are not frightened, worried, or consumed by human injustice perpetrated by human actors; instead you are emboldened to act with courage in the face of all of that, knowing that Jesus walks before you—so who can be against you?

When you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, you are able to forgive your enemies before they do unto you, without rancor, without judgment, and without fear of what you will lose.

I am convinced, now more than ever, that the greatest impact we will ever have on each other—the greatest ability that we will ever display to others to show them how to “destroy a piece of [their] own hearts” is by walking out the love, compassion, and nonviolent response exemplified in the life, actions, and words of Jesus Christ, to people whose opinions, positions, and even behavior and actions, we find to be scary, repulsive, revolting, and even violating human decency.

Our role is not to deal out death (whether that be rhetorical death via a social media post or literal death via a weapon) in judgement, for who can know all ends of the human heart?

Who can predict how walking out the impact of a relationship that goes above all human knowledge will affect that other person who disagrees—even unto death?

No hashtag ever generated a relationship with Christ in another human being.

***

The solutions are simple, but not easy.

Teach your children to use kind words with each other and role model not looking at the phone.

Go and talk to your neighbor who disagrees with you politically, economically, racially, scientifically, emotionally, and find out why they disagree through actively listening to them, rather than making a judgment.

Take the inner journey toward Jesus Christ, with or without a Bible believing church behind you. This journey—if you take it as seriously as you take protesting, demonstrating, and inspirational posting—will change your heart fundamentally, if you let it. It is no surprise that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a practicing Reverend first, and then a nonviolent demonstrator, and then a public hero.

No matter what your title, your race, your gender, your sexual orientation, your desires, or your needs, begin with changing the world, by changing yourself—your own dark heart—first.

Avoid dealing out metaphorical (or even literal) death in judgment, and instead lead with compassion.

For justice without mercy is merely dressed up revenge.

And mercy without justice is merely watered down passivity.

We are all called to be active, not passive, players in this life, regardless of our title, our position in life, our past history, or our current situation.

I am not preaching human love. I am not advocating for human understanding. I am not writing for more of the same thing that doesn’t work. I am not telling you who to vote for. I am not telling you what church to go to. I am not telling you what pundit’s video to reTweet, or what meme to post.

I am focused, laser-like, on uplifting you toward examining yourself first and then looking at others. I am focused laser-like on destroying pieces of my own heart that are capable of evil. I am focused laser-like on attaining and facilitating the justice that Jesus Christ would have me attain and facilitate, rather than engaging over and over again with my own anger, disappointment, and disgust.

And the diamond through which I am shining that laser-like focus is my real relationship with Jesus Christ.

The solutions cannot be all wrapped up neatly at the end of a 2700-word + essay, because the problems are buried deep in the human heart.

They’ve been going on since man disobeyed God in the garden of Eden, and then, Cain slew Abel and his blood cried out from the ground for justice.

They’ve been going on since Abraham bargained with God for the preservation of Sodom and Gomorrah.

They’ve been going on since the Romans burned Christians as pyres to light Nero’s palace.

They’ve been going on since the Catholic Church killed Jews and other non-believers, in the Inquisition.

They’ve been going on since one part of our country decided that they would rather engage in an apocalyptic Civil War than give up the trade of humans as chattel.

They’ve been going on since Vladimir Lenin decided that in order to make a “perfect world” he would have to break some eggs.

They’ve been going on since Hutus and Tutsis destroyed Lake Victoria with each other’s dead bodies.

They’ve been going on since a cop shot a man in a car for no other reason than he appeared to be threatened.

We cannot begin changing others under our own power until we change ourselves first.

If we could, we would have done it already.

We need more Jesus, not less.

And not the Jesus we make up to make ourselves feel comfortable about our human evils, and to justify our judgements and decisions, but the Jesus who is what He says He is.

Or else…well…just look at the headlines, the videos, the news reports, and the decay of interaction to see what the inevitable outcome will look like.

[Opinion] The Dark Heart of Man

By | Active Listening, Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Emotional Intelligence, Facebook, Google, HIT Pieces, Media, Old Posts, Opinions, Peacemaker, Problem Solving, Reconciliation, Relationships, Resolution, Social, Social Media, Storytelling, Strategies, Strategy, Truth, Twitter, Twitter

Let’s talk about the kind of communication we want to have.

[Opinion] The Dark Heart of Man

In person communications have always been fraught with difficulty, misunderstandings, miscommunications, negative escalations, and conflicts. When people talk with each other face-to-face there is always the opportunity for confusion and conflict, particularly if the conversation in question is questioning deeply held stories around values, worldviews, and frames.

It takes a lot of emotional quickening to escalate from a conversation to a confrontation to a conflict to a fistfight to a war. There are many discrete steps in face-to-face communication that social norming has established, developed, and refined for thousands of years to limit such escalation. But, as is always the case, human beings’ tools for communication get better, friction and misunderstanding increases, even as the speed of communication increases, and conflicts flare up.

From carrier pigeons to riders on horseback to the telephone to mail by airplane to emails and now Twitter, there have always been people who would rather have a fight than share an idea. And as the speed of our tools has increased how fast we get a message and then react to it, (going from days or weeks to micro-seconds) there hasn’t been a commensurate increase in the heart of rational contemplation.

Thus we get to social media communication. Trolls, bad actors, spammers, and others use the immediacy of social communication tools to psychologically manipulate people on the other end of the message into reacting rather than thinking. And there’s really only two reactions such individuals are seeking: fight or flight.

They aren’t looking for a measured argument.

They aren’t looking for reasonable discourse.

They aren’t looking for knowledge or growth.

They are looking for either a respondent’s heels or their fangs.

In the case of the Internet, and the communication tools we have built on top of it, we have exchanged immediacy for escalation, and have confused passion for legitimacy of an assertion. This is particularly problematic for people delivering messages that are outside the “mainstream,” or that rely on dispassionate examination of facts, rather than passionate reaction to opinions.

Ease of access to digital tools also allows communication to be focused on the tawdry and the spectacle—which is short term—instead of the deliberative and the reasonable—which is long-term. The creators of these digital tools—the owners of the platforms—may be publicly or privately traded companies, but make no mistake: the platforms are private property and the Internet, while vast, is not a place where 1.6 billion participants need to (or deserve to) cast a vote on the operations of a series of companies that built the platforms in the first place.

What kind of communication do we want to have?

The answer to that question, at least as is evidenced by the numbers of people using these communications tools, seems to be that we want friction free, painless, non-relational based communication when we want it, how we want it, that allows us to do what we want, when we want, how we want. But this is an inherently selfish and vain position, based in our perception of want, rather than a relational need.

Online communication will always be fraught with difficulty and no amount of changing a name policy, policing speech we don’t like, or building walls and doors into platforms, is going to prevent than difficulty. This is because the tools we use to communicate are the problem because of the assumptions and expectations built into them.

We’ve got to figure this out though, because at a global scale, there won’t be a positive outcome from communications wars between people. We are already seeing the beginnings of skirmishes around the edges of platforms such as Reddit and Twitter. We are also seeing responses to such skirmishes from companies such as SnapChat and WhatsApp, which promise to build platforms with more friendly assumptions around safety, conviviality, and trust built into them, rather than welded on from the outside as an afterthought.

More special interest groups meeting with Facebook isn’t going to solve this communications problem.

More governmental lobbying at scale by Google isn’t going to solve this problem either.

More closing off, disengaging online, or demanding more censorious penalties for people we don’t like, saying things that make us feel threatened, abused, or bullied (the aforementioned trolls, bad actors, and spammers) isn’t going to solve this problem either.

The solution to all of this, as with most things, lies in changing the motivations toward selfishness, vanity, and revenge that lie deep in the heart of man.

And, to borrow from Einstein when he was talking about the outcomes of the development of nuclear weapons, I’m going to bet that the founders of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and many, many other chatrooms, message boards, and email systems since the web was democratized, secretly wish, deep in their hearts, that they could go back in time, and instead become watchmakers.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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