What Exactly Is a Healthy Debate?
I definitely have fears, and yet somehow I am not connecting to them this week, or at least not recognizing them.
I had an awkward conversation with two of my co-workers today, at least it got awkward as I tried to describe/explain why bigoted and discriminatory language should change and I was utterly unconvincing – I had to exit basically mid-sentence. While I have emotions around all of it, I’m not sure where the fear is or how it’s showing up. Fear of conflict and of not being liked (people pleasing, sigh), perhaps? I’m trying to explore it, but it may not be any of those things, rather just me disagreeing with people and being frustrated at how badly I am failing at debate! So it may be a reach.
NO I think this is a really important thing! There is SO much internal stress caused by social norms. I talk about this a lot with my Dad and with my Grandpa – neither of whom are debaters; they’re taught me how to interact when I am called on to explore an “aggressive” inquiry. I don’t debate ever. It’s not an energy I enjoy or find useful – in social conversations. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a place because it sure does, but for me, only with another practitioner who wants to collaborate intellectually. AND at the same time because of what I do for a living, the things I believe in, and the literal “miracles” I witness so so often, which are in fact normal because it is far more natural to be healthy, social debates are a dime a dozen and hella attractive!
But no one believes me. And they want to push up against me to see what they themselves believe in. It is the unpleasant part of being an authority, and it absolutely must be managed.
It took me 10+ years to get that. 10+ years of being yelled at at parties, being called a fraud, an idiot, pulled out into the middle of the room to explain what the body does, and then laughed at. Gawd it’s SO maddening. Oooh and don’t forget the google health nuts. Google is about 15 years behind what I know, and at least once a day I have a conversation with someone who tells me how the body works, according to the latest trends – or better their opinions as facts.
It’s a HUGE thing to be an authority and to have to function inside the system. It’s almost emotionally impossible to be a change maker inside the system that needs the change. YOU are that. How you operate in your life with your relationships and your experiences makes you the change the world is looking for. YOU.
You’re not failing at debate, you are seeing the reality of an energy in society that is no longer up for debate. People don’t need to know why, they already know in their bones. They want to follow you. Be proud of yourself. You won’t convince them in the moment, because they don’t need convincing. They are looking for what the new language actually is, and looking to you to give them the options.
I totally get the fear of conflict and not being liked over this too. It definitely feels like that. I have created a million default statements for people who want to talk “homeopathy” for their health at parties. Most of it is not homeopathy, but what they want to hear. For example “yes there is homeo treatment for that, but you’ll need to work with a Homeopath. What you can do on your own is…”
Once I started doing that, I was way less frustrated – went from an 11 to a 2! – and better I started being more and more confident. I wasn’t constantly losing the social challenge to less educated people, and taking it in the teeth because people wanted to challenge my authority. It was like 10 years of mud wrestling suddenly stopped and I was able to focus on how it feels right, comfortable and enjoyable to share my information – to teach those who are desperate to learn what I know. For me the answer is blogging, and I finally have the energy and the clarity to make it happen – for exactly the reason you are talking about in your share. I have taught myself not to engage in the debate and that leaves me available to speak (write) to a larger audience way more efficiently and enjoyably.
I don’t think you have a fear either, I think you have an accidental misunderstanding of what your role is in the conversations you are having. Accept that you are an authority and you are walking in the world that everyone is wondering how to walk in, so to them you are magic. When people hear something they don’t necessarily understand yet, they are silent or immediately resistant, and those of us who are people pleasers (and lack of confidence types) take those reactions so personally. You know me – you all do ha! – MY default when that happens to me, or I feel uncomfortable, or scared, or the person I’m talking to is starting to leave the building emotionally, I say: does that make sense? It creates the space for social negotiation around the thing they have asked me to teach them to change.
I love this thread you’ve started here. The hardest part of being a leader, a change maker, a trailblazer, from the future, whatever you want to call it, is the social interactions we have minute to minute. They are hard to manage authentically and in a way that satisfies our human need to connect to another human being. That connection is always more important than the issues we teach about. Always. In fact, it becomes our number 1 tool.