Someone on the Internet is wrong…

There’s a lovely cartoon out there with a man feverishly typing away on his computer at midnight. His partner calls from the bedroom: ‘Are you coming to bed now dear?’ He says: ‘No, not yet, someone on the Internet is wrong!’

I love this cartoon because we’ve all been there. On forums and on social media we’ve all been involved in these pissing contests. You read something and you can feel your blood pressure going up. It’s like magic isn’t it! Over millions of tiny wires spanning the globe someone, somewhere, usually with a pseudonym and a ridiculous avatar, has said something that’s so incredibly wrong that you have to put them right. You fume about it, slam the keys, type faster and faster and press ‘post’ or ‘tweet’ or ‘share’. THERE! Stick that in your idiotic pipe and smoke it!

Then of course, they reply. You knew they were going to. You replied to them. Did you really think you’d had the last word? And so…on it goes. Until you’ve actually forgotten what it was you were originally arguing about. You’re way beyond it; slinging mud, trading statistics and battling intellects. It’s gone beyond nerdy and into anal. You have to win. You must, otherwise you’ll never sleep again.

And here’s the rub. No one ever wins. Because everyone has a different perspective and a different point of view. Unless it’s purposefully hurtful, criminal, exploitative or dangerous, everyone has a valid point of view. And there’s something to be learnt from this in business too. In every ‘wrong’ opinion or point of view there is a hidden element of truth about our products or services. To that person, it is the truth. It’s what they think and feel. If they can’t articulate it or we can’t understand it, perhaps it’s because we’re not putting ourselves in their shoes, we’re not in the mood to empathise, we want to win much, much more than we want to analyse and unpack what they’re saying. We’re just not listening hard enough.

So next time you feel that tell-tale flush of indignation, that urge to explain the truth to someone - in business or in life - remember to spend a minute looking at why you think you’re right. Because, as someone very old and wise once said to me: The truth depends on where you’re standing.