This week I had a dispute with someone who did not like what I wrote. The week before, I overreacted to something someone else wrote on Twitter. The important part in this post is how the misunderstandings arose: assumptions about your audience. So often, it is that.
When I write at the various places I write – paranormal or skeptics sites, or for the general public – I’m very conscious of my audience. What do they already know and what is their viewpoint of the world? I have to tailor my talks too – for background, experience, age, etc. But that’s hard to get completely right because you never know if some expert or some complete newbie is in the audience and your words or actions fall short, sail overhead or explode with unintended casualties.
I got blasted by a speaker who assumed that everyone in the audience was sympathetic to her view. She assumed we all knew her background and, perhaps because we had chosen to be there, were supporters.
There are critics everywhere.
When you put yourself out in the public eye such as being a speaker at a conference, talking on any media, on the internet, or publicly on Facebook or Twitter, you should not be surprised that something won’t sit well with someone. For opinionated people who like to share, this happens every month. Maybe every week or every day.
As many skeptics have pointed out, disagreement with your views does not mean I don’t like you as a person, or that I’m your enemy, or that I’m a bad person, or that I’m deliberately out to get you. It’s not character assassination to express disagreement or to point out an error. I am not out to be nasty, just to express my view.
You can catch me expressing my views about the latest UFO incidents around Europe and the U.S. on this week’s Virtual Skeptics. It was a fun episode where we had robot dinosaurs, talked about cannibalism, Creationism and some skeptical goodness. See embedded video below.
In the lighter moments with friends or people we think are our friends, we may let our guard down and say something too personal. We may be completely misinterpreted. Happens ALL THE TIME on the Internet. Be charitable. Try to work it out.
I realize I have apologized to people who didn’t deserve it. But I did it to try and smooth things over. When attempts to make nice were greeted by escalation of hostilities, this was a sign that the other person is insecure and is not willing to be fair, just out to maintain the upper hand. Time to disengage. I will not blame myself for that. I tried.
There are a few who still owe me an apology for crap they pulled over the past year after I previously supported them. I doubt I’ll get the apology because they haven’t seemed to learn that back and forth disagreements may happen but forward is a much better direction in which to travel through life.