Question from a reader -
Wanted to let you know the timing of your Anonymous Troll post was perfect. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one affected in my being by people online who want to take me on/down. I have an ongoing struggle with online interaction because I used to get into similar kinds of situations and got extremely riled up and fueled for days on end.
Anyway, your post was encouraging and helpful for me; even just to see that other people--people I really respect--are stirred up by online conflicts. If you have any more insights on how to handle this in a balanced life, I'd love to hear them, or hopefully read about them on your blog. I'm still wrestling with the issue.
Good email here. Glad you wrote.
You know Sun Tzu? Art of War? One of his principles is very relevant here -
"Win before fighting."
If you go into battle uncertain, you wind up getting your ass kicked sometimes. That's bad. Rather, it's much better to build up your defenses, your training, your intelligence, etc, before the fight starts, and be guaranteed victory. The fighting is just a formality.
Clearly then, getting into arguments online is violating that principle. It's much better to build a structure where you're highly respected and well-known among your friends and cohorts, and then either get into discussions as equals, or be in a position to just smash someone who antagonizes you unfairly.
So yeah, I gave up with online arguments for the most part. The most recent post was after an unprovoked assault on me - I wanted to cover the topic since I think it's relevant, and also make the guy who wrote those things look like the joker he is. Not because I care about him very much, but just so ideally there's a few second pause of hesitation before someone else tries similar nonsense. Going overboard occasionally - rarely - ideally causes you to not need to fight at all going forwards.
So yeah, I'd recommend -
1. Don't get into any discussion or argument unless you're already in a good position.
2. Win before fighting. You should ideally already be in a position to smash whoever does wrong by you if they do. And then make an example out of them.
3. But, for now, you probably want to disengage from that until you've built up a bigger everything. Jumping into a fight that isn't already decided by virtue of your training, timing, and understanding of the situation is no good and can be distracting.
I've tried to get away from arguing with people online. It solves nothing. Better to build. But occasionally, it's called for. Really, really smash on those occasions.
Hope some useful thoughts in there, cheers,
Useful advice in certain situations, but note that all three numbered suggestions presuppose an adversarial interaction and are positional (counter to Harvard Negotiation Project advice, as in Getting to Yes, for what it's worth).
The anonymous troll case notwithstanding, many times another person who seems to be looking for a fight isn't, they just have poor rhetorical skills. Or maybe they're looking for a fight but would be pacified by someone framing the interaction as not a fight.
For example, I've gotten a lot of use from adding a phrase like "... but I could be wrong. I'd be happy to change my mind if shown a better perspective or evidence to the contrary." I've found a phrase like that reframes the interaction as we are both looking for a resolution, not a fight. Sometimes asking questions to understand their motivations, independent of the views or positions they're supporting helps.
Sometimes winning and fighting aren't the best metaphors.
I think it is a whole lot easier to tear things down than it is to build them up. I think this is great site you have here empowered with great ideas. I certainly couldn't do better myself and I doubt trolls that try to tear at the tapestry could either.
Act I: The Discovery of Conflict Invigoration
I recently discovered a phenomenon common among many highly successful people. I'm calling it "conflict invigoration" - this is a personality trait, a mixed blessing and curse. It's the kind of person who can move heaven and earth when inspired, but doesn't do as well when they aren't... and who is always invigorated by a fight.
I first noticed conflict invigoration among a number of the most successful people I knew personally. See, I don't think this is an entirely new observation, but a lot of the people that reach stratospheric levels of success are kind of deranged. You almost have to be, to keep going after you've "won" by every conceivable measure, to work yourself to the bone at the expense of your sanity and longevity and vitality, to neglect so many of the basic human needs and pleasures and comforts.
I saw this trait in lots of successful people, and then I started paying attention to biographies and histories. Indeed, many of the most expansive people in our generation and previous ones are conflict invigorated - they've perhaps always got a baseline of creativity and striving, but it really comes out when a fight breaks out.
"Competition is always a fantastic thing, and the computer industry is intensely competitive." - Bill Gates
Late night. I had a dinner date with a dame named alcohol. She showed up late as usual. Cold. Wet. And never disappointing like the girls of Fountain Square. No matter how much I resist she keeps bringing me back to the same dark place I've grown to love. I'm in torment.
My phone rings off the hook. When I go to answer it I see that an ex lover is on the other end. She has been a thorn in my side ever since we parted and no tweezers are enough to dig it out. Somehow I find myself engaged in this weekly conversation. She tells me the things that I've already heard and asks the questions that she already knows the answer to. By the time we are finished I find myself calling out to the same lady that never disappoints. She never yells at me. I never have to yell at her. True love incarnate.