There is no doubt 2020 has tested all our patience and led to much frustration, in one way or another. Whether it’s because of the presidential election systemic racism or following/not following CDC guidelines, it seems as if everyone has very strong opinions. Which, thanks to social media, further polarizing views tend to be on one end of a spectrum or another- leaving very little room for a middle ground or a peaceful ground at least. Coupled with many people not knowing how to communicate effectively and healthily, it’s a recipe for rather uncivil arguments.
WWhen met with incivility, it can become especially draining if we try to get the other party to behave civilly or even attempt at explaining our argument for the sake of communicating our viewpoint and being potentially understood. At that point, we are no longer engaging in discourse, rather we are attempting to argue against incivility (instead of an argument) and often a human’s ever-present desire to be right, or an inferiority complex projecting onto something as humanitarian as wearing a mask or social distancing. In such instances, is it better to fight or flight? What are the consequences of either? Are you a terrible humanitarian if you walk away and allow the other person to continue being uncivil or a threat to society elsewhere?
The consequences of the former- fighting- can be devastating to ourselves, while the other person may feel absolutely no remorse. Frustration can lead to crying, not being able to focus on a task, having our days ruined, and even becoming cynical about society as a whole due to merely a few “lost causes.”
OOdds are, if you ask someone to wear a mask properly or maintain a safe distance from you, for example, and they become offended, defensive, disrespectful, or aggressive, no amount of pleading will get them to change their mind. In that instance, even if it’s a family member or friend, the best mental health choice is to walk away. Yes, they are posing a threat to society, the way someone who practices implicit and/or explicit racism does, and that’s often difficult to not actively go against. But you are not a terrible person for choosing your mental health over engaging in a fruitless draining interaction. Practicing the act of muting others- in real life- not only maintains our inner peace but allows us to be agents of change, as we are not drained of our energy in vain and can instead use our energy effectively.
The next time your attempt at a conversation is met with incivility, you might want to consider walking away and placing the person on “mute” by saying “I will not engage in this conversation while you are uncivil,” not allowing the other person’s aggressive, offensive, and/or ignorant words negatively affect you. It’s a skill that takes practice but, if we start to employ it now, it could be of great use to us beyond 2020 into our future relationships, workforce experiences, and peacebuilding.
Learning to walk away is as important as having the courage to speak up.