You’ve Been Owned.

There is something about completely owning someone. To be the victor in a challenge or sporting event feels great and is an amazing boost to the ego. You can look down your nose at those you have overcome and know that you are better than them. You are the winner and they are the loser.

Winner…

Loser…

That’s what it is to ‘own’ someone. It’s young person lingo to describe you as a winner and someone else a loser. They are trampled underfoot and you are the victor dancing on their grave.

I guess it’s not too much of an issue in the context of a game, but I am seeing the culture of ‘owning’ someone become common place in political engagement and social media. The goal no longer appears to be to create dialogue, uncover each opinion and seek to change someone’s mind. Instead the goal looks like finding the most cutting one liner that is both clever and true – a zinger perhaps, one that is so amazing that it removes the need for any further conversation. The person delivering the line then walks away in full knowledge that the other side was ‘owned’ whilst onlookers can only think ‘Well, there’s nothing more to be said. I am well and truly convinced by that pithy statement ausguy_645 said’.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, that’s not how communication works. What we end up seeing instead is dozens of people jump in with their one liner in an attempt to cut down someone else with a different opinion. They all speak at the same time and use whatever language necessary to be heard over the others and it does not have the desired impact of silencing anyone. It only creates more angst and anger, and more one liners. Finally, the only way to be heard is to say the most outrageous, malicious statement as loud and as violently as you can so that the conversation stops, therefore winning the argument and ‘owning’ the other side.

Here’s the thing. It’s lazy. It’s bad communication. There is no generosity there. Anyone can say something cutting and seemingly interesting in 280 characters. Anyone can drop a comment on a post and bring in to question the credibility of someone else. Sure, some people do it better than others, but the real work comes from the second 280 characters, and the 280 characters after that. And the curiosity about someone else’s opinion. And the suggested way forward after that. That’s where the skill lay.

That’s generosity. It comes along side someone and invites them into a thoughtful dialogue, and if the invitation is refused, generosity walks away without malice and frustration.

In the Absence of Data…

I used to love writing stories when I was little. Tales about forest dwelling people and stories of weird animals, and bizarre worlds. I think I was quite a creative little guy. But I grew out of that, or so I thought. I discovered recently that I am still strongly involved in creating stories – about people mostly, and their motives and thinking.

Studies suggest that we spend up to 80% or our time each day in some form of communication. Only a small part of that is via speaking. Most of our communication is non-verbal and even when we do communicate verbally we can’t possibly say everything that is going on in our mind. So, for the majority of the time, people around us don’t actually have any idea what we are thinking or feeling.

Brene Brown, the well-known researcher and speaker, says that ‘in the absence of data, we always make up stories’. Meaning that if we don’t know what someone is thinking or feeling about us, we create a story around that – we make up what they might be thinking or feeling. Most of the time what we make up is much worse than reality. But until we get the real story confirmed, we live in a make believe world where our made up version is non-fiction.

One of the greatest acts of generosity to ourselves and those around us is choosing to assume the best. Notice when we are making up stories about what others are thinking and feeling, and seek out the data. Seek to find out what the truth of the matter is. If we must make up a story because we don’t have the data, let’s make up positive ones.