This could be a series on "no buts", because I encounter so many who enter conversation as if it were a boxing ring. Rational arguments raised as fists in both a protective and aggressive stance.
If you're talking just to say how something cannot be done, is not possible, others are idiots, wrong, or stupid, and so forth, save your breath — or tweet.
It may feel good to rant and commiserate publicly. You're just not having a conversation.
I've noticed this behavior showing up in many forms, especially on Twitter. For example, say I share a post by someone else that triggers reaction, for whatever reason — it challenges convention, it takes a different point of view, it exposes an issue.
Twitter is not an ideal tool to hold conversations, of course. However, the tool is only partly at fault in the hands of the user. It would be like blaming the boxer's gloves when hitting an opponent.
So here's what happens, for illustration purposes.
I share the post, and it triggers reactions. Disagreeing with me about a point of view, even if it's not mine, is fine if you're looking to keep an open mind and have a desire to engage in a dialogue. There is an art to conversation. To make time productive for all involved, one needs to be willing to explore the topic.
Here's what exploring looks like in conversation, yes even in 140 characters (assuming you actually read the post in question):
- it's a good start, how about adding this dimension to it? — you're proposing something
- how could we also think about that? — you're partnering with the other in furthering the conversation
- and, if we were to look at it from the other side, we would say xyz might lead to abc — you're being proactive, and suggesting another way of looking at it
- from my point of view of having done abc, I can offer this learning — you're stating an opinion based upon experience in an open language
- can I ask what you like about it? — you're challenging your own assumptions by inquiring
In other words, you're creating, developing, building with your participation. You're making the stream useful for those who follow your messages, and yourself worth following. This is one of the top questions individuals ask: how do you get more followers? Well, here's one way.
Then, consider that if you want to become a thought leader, you need to behave as one. It's not enough to complain about what others are doing or saying, even couched as "wink, wink" whispering down the lane. A public tweet is broadcasting to all, even when it feels like a conversation with a select group — that is what closed networks and breakfast with friends are for.
Most importantly, it's a sure way to kill conversation, which might be one of the richest learning experiences online.
Even when it is not elevated to art, conversation is a process, a negotiation of meaning, a way to give and receive information and make progress to a new milestone of understanding with oneself, and others.
Conversation is part of the social toolkit. It allows us to bridge differences in cultures, attitudes, and even languages. My money is on conversation. Where are you putting your bets?