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Ian O'Byrne

There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question. - Carl Sagan In TL;DR - Subscribe at wiobyrne.com/tldr/ #naivete

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Ian O'Byrne

Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family. - Kofi Annan

Ian O'Byrne

Oppositional Conversational Style

3 min read

As we engage in discussion or debate with others, we often come across the person that wants to argue just for the sake of arguing.

Gretchen Rubin identifies this as oppositional conversational style

Oppositional conversational style is a person, who in a discussion or debate disagrees with and corrects everything that you say. They may do this in a friendly or perhaps a belligerent manner. This may be face-to-face, or in online settings.

What does this look like?

This person will provide facts, alternative facts, beliefs, & suppositions all to suspend or carry on the debate. There is no desire to engage in a real debate. There is also no desire to come to a common ground through dialogue.

The individual may not listen in the debate. They frequently interrupt, monopolize, and/or hijack the conversation to present their own agenda. 

This may include attempts to force a dynamic in the discussion, or not moving on from a topic when both parties are not receptive. Alternatively, this may also include randomly and abruptly changing topics without transition or apparent reason.

There may be several reasons individuals engage in oppositional conversational style. It could be that emotions are causing them to act irrationally. They may be trying to cover up an incomplete understanding of the facts. They may simply not have the knowledge or intellectual fortitude to engage in discussion or debate.

What to do

In these instances, we often want to continue to debate and understand the individual...or make them understand our point of view. This is often a fruitless endeavor.

Keep in mind that it's not always necessary to change someone's mind. Do not get emotionally overwhelmed in the interaction. 

Realize that some issues are objective and some are subjective. Objective issues deal with concrete, or observable facts. If the other individual does not want to discuss facts, you may be arguing in vain.

Move on

When you find yourself in a discussion or debate with someone that utilizes an oppositional conversational style, the best course of action may be to end the discussion before it starts.

If you see any of the patterns identified above, it may be best for you to end the debate before it continues. 

I believe that it is much easier to be direct and honest with the individual. Ask them the following question:

Is there anything that I can say to change, or make you reconsider, your perspective? 

If they indicate that there is nothing you can say or do to make them change their mind, it is time to remove yourself from the conversation. 

Your relationship with the person should dictate your response. If it is a family member you may decide to ask them about their conversational style to better understand their logic. If it is a boss or co-worker, it might be better to accept their position and move on. If this is an acquaintance or someone that you don't really know, you should change the subject, or walk away. 

 

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Ian O'Byrne

Stoic reflections on life as a project and role models

3 min read

Thank you to friends Doug Belshaw and Eylan Ezekiel for pointing me to the events for Stoic Week 2016. This year's theme is on "stoicism and love." You can review the handbook for the week's materials here. 

The website is full of materials if you're interested in exporing stoicism and possible impacts on your life. I was most intrigued by the self-assessment they provide as you begin this journey. I'll share more on this later.

I start my day with a period of meditation, exercise, and then some reading and journaling. The events of stoic week 2016 will consist of a daily meditation and some written reflections throughout the day.

The iniitial prompt for today is the following:

From Maximus [I have learnt the importance of these things]: to be master of oneself and not carried this way and that; to be cheerful under all circumstances, including illness; a character with a harmonious blend of gentleness and dignity; readiness to tackle the task in hand without complaint; the confidence everyone had that whatever he said he meant and whatever he did was not done with bad intent; never to be astonished or panic-stricken, and never to be hurried or to hang back or be at a loss or downcast or cringing or on the other hand angry or suspicious; to be ready to help or forgive, and to be truthful; to give the impression of someone whose character is naturally upright rather than having undergone correction; the fact that no-one could have thought that Maximus looked down on him, or could have presumed to suppose that he was better than Maximus; and to have great personal charm. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 1.14

The intent of this prompt from the organizers of Stoic Week is to have us consider our life as an ongoing project, and the journey of ethical self-development. 

For me this is an important element of my life as I try to understand, or at least make room for the thoughts and habits that make me who I am. Meditation has helped me to quiet (at times) much of the noise of self-doubt and anxiety. By resetting each morning through meditation and reflection, I try to learn more about myself and who I would like to be.

Learning is a fundamental part of my philosophy and action. Through the aquistion of new knowledge I believe that we can understand and hopefully "change" most anything in our lives. 

 

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Ian O'Byrne

February 24, 2016

2 min read

As we enter the marketplace, or build up a digital identity that is representative of our skills, we upload our resume/CV. We can use badges/credentials to signify growth/learning. We can use networks, like LinkedIN to express our values and have others review/vet them.

One of the challenges in this is that when we look for a job, there are usually two questions that many jobs will ask. Are you the right fit and are you the right fit?

First, are you the right fit for the position? E.g., credentials, degree, background knowledge, experience, etc. In higher ed…most of this is done before you get through the front door. They’ve gone through your materials, and cut through the people that just don’t fit.

Second...usually when you meet F2F, are you the right fit? Would you fit in with the culture? Are you a jerk? Also, would you want to fit in with them?

I’m wondering what badges would do in that infrastructure.

As we move to a distributed economy in which people/colleagues/associates might rarely/never meet F2F, how do we make these judgements?

There are the skills, degrees, and credentials…but how do you assess those soft skills? Yes, we trust the filters…but how do you evaluate/justify if someone is an jerk or not? How do you evaluate that second fit?