Nobody — calls me — chicken

One of the morals of the Back to The Future series is being able to walk away from a fight. It took three movies for Marty McFly to learn this self-control.

One thing that the scriptwriters failed to predict was the birth of speaking your mind in 140 characters, aka Twitter.  If they had, it would be easy to see how Marty might have been pulled in to a twitter diatribe and feel unable to resist responding.

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It’s easy to engage on Twitter. It’s fun and easy to throw out ideas, thoughts and it’s mildly useful for debate. My personal experience though is that it’s much harder to disengage. I  feel compelled to reply to a challenge. It’s as if each tweet directed at me is a personal call to respond (sometimes it is). As much as I want to ignore and avoid, I find myself compelled to return and <sigh> to respond. My reasoning mind tells me, desist, desist, but my ego overrides this. I must have the final word!

There comes a point in any twitter engagement when you realise the conversation is little about debate and more about chest beating. When I’ve come to this realisation, I’ve lost the battle. I’m no longer in control regardless of having the last word or not. There’s little dignity in winning such a battle.

We need to learn the art of disengagement, the ability to walk away without feeling somehow less of a person. It’s important to engage, but it’s also important to be able to disengage.

I’ve come up with some heuristics to help me battle the McFly syndrome.

Yes, And Heuristic
I got this from Lynne Cazeallys book Create Change. Instead of think ‘yes but’, think ‘Yes and..’. .it goes some way to appearing collaborative, perhaps reducing the antagonism in the twitter conversation.

How about this? Heuristic
Another Lynne Cazeally suggestion. It uses a lot of characters but you can apply the sentiment to help sound more congenial.

Rule of Three Heuristic
Sometimes, attempting to understand other reasons why someone might write something helps you to walk away. Taken from Jerry Weinberg’s rule of three.

Out to Lunch Heuristic
I’ve seen people use this occasionally where they excuse the challenge to go out and walk the dog, feed the kids etc. I haven’t tried it myself but its a method of walking away with some grace. Even better if the reason is valid.

Blank Wall
Simply don’t respond. Oh to have the willpower to apply this, especially in the heat of battle!

Blocking Heuristic.
A crude yet highly effective way of not knowing is someone is responding to you or not. You are now blissfully unaware. The downside is that you will never hear anything that this person has to say. You may consider this a good thing.

Turn off Twitter 
The ultimate solution and something a few people have resorted to. Not only does Twitter seem to bring out the worst in people it’s incredibly time-consuming. Ask yourself do you really need it?

What tactics do you use to help you disengage from a twitter war?

7 thoughts on “Nobody — calls me — chicken

  1. The question I try to ask myself is “is it likely I can say anything to persuade this person to change their mind?”.Often the answer is “no”. The follow up question is “so am I continuing with this out of ego?”. The answer to that is usually “yes”. I do struggle against admitting it, but when if I get to that stage it’s easier to disengage.

  2. Speaking of Marty McFly: A man has to earn his self-respect. Sometimes that means proving you’re not chicken. There is no inherent ethical, moral, or intellectual problem with that.
    The problem is if no amount of proof will satisfy you, or if you can’t tell what things do prove your worth and what things do not. Maybe that is the point of your post, but it didn’t come through clearly to me.

    AMC: I like your analysis of why there is a problem. I’m going to think about that one for a bit. I think I can expand on that.

  3. Nice post not only about self-respect I think but also about our ability to make an uncouded judgement call which in situations like these is often impaired, of course I include myself in that.I’d add another “How” to it, “How important is answering this question for me?” Often the answer is very. But if I then append “instead of spending time with my son” it puts me in the right mindset again. Importance is always relative and pitting another imaginary scene against the current situation can be helpful to get perspective again.

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