Dancing with controversy

Some people want to start a conversation putting people on defence – often using controversy. Why did you name your child after an unsavoury character in history? Are you really making your guest wash their feet before entering your house? Why does your company logo look like it is plagiarized from this other firm?

First, why do they do that? It could be a power play; or just banter done poorly. Often you can’t really tell their intention. In fact, you are not responsible for their intention, only themselves. While you might want to read into their intentions and craft some kind of story to set your mind away from the mystery, you never really know. So better to choose a story that favours you and your intended response.

Second, how should you respond? Now this part is on you. Regardless of the other party’s intention, you now have to be concerned about your own intention and the message you are trying to project. Returning it with banter or trying to laugh it off may work – but does it reflect your identity? Maybe you want to be gracious and simply acknowledge your feelings towards it. “That was hurtful, let’s move on to more productive topics.” or “From the sound of your question you’ve an axe to grind; I’d appreciate if you help me get away from that axe”. Just putting it out in the open, gently calling out what the other party is doing can be very powerful.

Finally, don’t dwell on it. Move on and direct your energies and enthusiasm towards something else. Controversy is such because people are unable to look beyond disagreements or to boil it down more to the fundamentals. They are such also because of the distractions around the topics which makes people less willing to confront the issue at hand.