How Not to be a Debate (or Discussion) Dickhead


On Facebook yesterday I added my thoughts to a discussion regarding the human impulse to take initiative. I commented that I believe initiative is sometimes tied to work ethic and character – which I stand behind. Well let me tell you, I set off a shitstorm. Sadly, most of those referring to my comment failed to follow the rules of a civil debate and were actually, in my opinion, extremely rude. Now, I’m not going to point out the discussion or name names, because that would be breaking the number one rule of etiquette – that we do not point out others’ gaffes or shortcomings.  I can be a big ole’ bitch and curse like a sailor 80 percent of the time, but I also know where the line is between being civil and just being a dickhead. I used to be a dickhead. It has taken me many years to learn to keep it real and nice.

Here’s where mistakes were broken yesterday. First off, several individuals passingly quoted something I had said but rather than direct their comments at me or even refer to me by name so that I could properly respond, they just quoted. It was like I was standing in the room and they were talking about me, but indirectly, to others. I wanted to say, “Hey. I’m right here. Helllllooo?”

The second, and probably the most nagging, mistake made was not listening (reading in this case) to what was being said. I never once said that all people who lack initiative have poor work ethics. Nor did I ever say that all people who fail to take initiative lack character. I never generalized, yet several commenters responded as if I had done just that. Listening is the golden rule of debate.

Finally, many blanket statements were used. This is precisely what I tried to avoid with my comment and believe I did so satisfactorily. Statements like “in any system”, “it’s a trait that falls in a standard distribution” and “Source: sense of self-worth”. Simple logic tells us that the human impulse to take initiative depends on a variety of factors and circumstances. There is no one single reason why a person fails to or does take initiative in any specific instance.

I was tempted to respond to the thread, but lacked any desire because so many fundamental rules of debate and common etiquette were broken. At any rate, I do believe that the impulse to take initiative is indeed tied to work ethic and character in MANY (not all) people – self-admittedly. I’ve had people look me in the eyes and say that they would rather lie on a couch all day long and be lazy than get up and do ANYTHING – work, exercise, play, whatever – and that they didn’t give a shit what anyone else thought about it.  What does that say about a person’s work ethic? How about their overall character?

What are your thoughts?


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