David Brooks is a modern-day philosopher masquerading as a newspaper columnist.
I may not agree with every word he writes (he’s still a Republican, I think) but he’s a moderate and reasonable voice in a sea of shouting. That, alone, tells you something.
In this column, Brooks writes about how to be friendly with those who disagree with you politically. He may just have well written about how to have a healthy relationship.
I’m going to take some of the highlights and apply them to this blog but I highly encourage you to click the link above to read all of them in their original context:
Tough conversations are usually about tribal identity. Most disagreements are not about the subject purportedly at hand. They are over issues that make people feel their sense of self is disrespected and under threat. So when you’re debating some random topic, you are mostly either inflaming or pacifying the other person’s feeling of tribal identity.
We see that tribalism all the time in the comments. Independent women who are sick of men and their selfish bullshit, MGTOWs who are sick of entitled, emasculating American women. You know who I’m sick of? Those people.
Both sides have valid complaints about the opposite sex, but if you take a moment to criticize their side, they’ll shut down, attack, or engage in some odd form of whataboutism that will make your head explode. If you can’t acknowledge the partial validity of another point of view, reasonable people with differing views will have a hard time connecting with you – which further buries into our tribal bubbles.
Reject either/or. The human mind has a tendency to reduce problems to either we do this or we do that. This is narrowcasting. There are usually many more options neither side has imagined yet.
If there’s one thing that I hope I bring to this dialogue, it’s nuance. My true north is objective reality, not how I FEEL about things. This is why I’m a liberal who is sick of snowflake culture. This is why I’m a man who thinks that 90% of men are unsuitable as relationship partners. This is why I’m a coach for women who is unafraid to tell women how they’re sabotaging themselves. The “right” answer to most relationship woes is always in the middle ground – where both men AND women can feel happy with the outcome. Men can’t send dick picks, expect to get laid, spend no time, energy or money on women and expect women to be happy. Women can’t expect men to spend a ton of time, energy and money on relationships, only to constantly be told that we’re terrible human beings because we don’t intuit your every need.
This is why I’m a man who thinks that 90% of men are unsuitable as relationship partners.
That’s why all my solutions are designed to work for both men AND women. 2/2/2 gets men on a date in less than a week and makes women feel more comfortable before giving up a Saturday night. Sexclusivity makes a man feel attractive and gets him some action while still setting healthy boundaries for relationship-oriented women. I encourage men to make women feel “safe, heard and understood,” and women to make men feel “accepted, appreciated and admired.”
So every time one of you jokers tells me that I’m a misogynist who is trying to turn women into Stepford Wives or tells me that I’m a “white knight” who is trying to sell a bill of goods to lonely middle-aged women, you’re all missing the objective reality: I am neither. Attacking me is just your way of falling into Brooks’ either/or trap.
Attune to the process. When you’re in the middle of an emotional disagreement, shift attention to the process of how you are having the conversation. In a neutral voice name the emotions people are feeling and the dynamic that is in play. Treat the hot emotions as cool, objective facts we all have to deal with. People can’t trust you if you don’t show them you’re aware of how you are contributing to the problem.
I do this in real life. I don’t do this on the blog, which is regretful. It is, however, one of many reasons I prefer face to face dialogue as opposed to having any meaningful dialogue via the written word. As a writer, that’s unfortunate. Fact is: it’s frustrating to be misunderstood and more frustrating to lose my temper over such misunderstandings.
It’s the very nature of comments sections to allow people to vent their spleen and make half-baked arguments. Why I think I should be able to police that on my own site after all these years is beyond me. I should either shut down the comments or stop commenting – but, truthfully I don’t want to do either.
Anyway, thanks for listening to me rant today.
Your thoughts, below, are always appreciated. Mostly.