Are you genuinely open-minded towards people who think differently than you do?
Generally, one of two things happens. Sometimes you may discover facts you were unaware of and alter your convictions into a more productive direction. Other times, by taking the time to see beyond their stubbornness, anger or fear, it is possible to make a connection and help the other person grow beyond a limiting belief.
Those were usually my experiences. This past week sharply reminded me of an alternative reality.
Sometimes when we are working from home, social media becomes an isolation reducing outlet. It replaces our office coffee break, the same way we used to chitchat in the staff room or by the water cooler. We also network for business and forge new friendships on SM.
A few days ago, as is my habit, I was checking out FB first thing in the morning for the sweet and funny posts people start their day off with. A woman I met through a business networking event posted an image so upsetting that I immediately unfriended her.
From time to time, amidst motivating and intelligent posts, this woman will post propaganda links to negative stories about Muslims which provoked comments. I sometimes joined in to give a differing opinion. An example would be an article suggesting that not eating pork or wearing a hijab is a threat to North American freedom. Yes, that ridiculous!
I always assumed that engaging in respectful dialogue would open doors of communication and diminish ignorance. However, when I woke up to images of Christian parents crying over their beheaded children, murdered by ISIS, it was time to unfriend.
Was this hate speech?
Just like me, this woman is a middle aged, educated, entrepreneur of Christian faith. Our similarities end there. She didn’t even worry about children or young people seeing that horrific image.
To be clear, she wasn’t telling people to specifically go out and hunt or hurt Muslims. However, her vocal opinions bordered on hate speech. These last few days, I began to ask myself how different she is to how Hitler’s regime spoke of the Jews. I’m sure that Hitler would have loved social media as much as ISIS and other hatemongers do. After church on Sunday, I’m sure he would have spent some time on FB.
Do you keep people in your life that are a tad sexist, xenophobic or homophobic hoping you will show them another way of thinking? What to do comes down to this.
There are only 3 Options
- Adapt to the situation. This is about acceptance. If I had ignored the post and carried on with my day that is what I would’ve been doing.
- Change the situation. That is what I was trying to do when I attempted to engage her and her friends in intelligent dialogue. I would question and encourage them to consider the alternative way to view their ways of thinking. Obviously, I didn’t make much headway in the last year. Sigh.
- Leave the situation. Obviously, when someone goes out of their way to prove to you that they are completely committed to their twisted viewpoint, it is time to leave. Preferably, before harm comes to you. (I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forget that image.)
Protect your business reputation
Now with this xenophobic woman, I have never done business with her. Although we share similar business contacts and may see each other again through networking, I deleted her from Facebook and LinkedIn and wiped her from any database. (I also alerted FB to that image.) Obviously, besides being upset, I do not want to have people think I agree with her in any way.
In the past, I hesitated to remove someone because I figured everyone has a right to be wrong. This experience made me realize I’ve been too tolerant and I need to protect myself and my reputation more. From now on, I will delete someone from my social networks and life more quickly and I will never look back. Lesson learned!
I would love to know what would stop you from removing someone from a business or social network. Can we be too open-minded and tolerant?