Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Dork Guide to Dealing With Other People

Alright, this post is in reply to something seen over on Blag Hag the last few days. Specifically this post.

To sum things up, two ladies went to an atheist event and a few things happened that pointed out how women are not made to feel welcome at such events. Some comments were made, some feelings were hurt, and a bad impression was generated.

Please understand I am giving you a small summary of a much larger post/issue rather than reposting it here. My intention is not to make light of the situation, and I'm just trying to give the reason why I'm posting the following. Please go and read the original post so that you may understand what exactly happened.

So, with that in mind it occurred to me that a guide on how to deal with others, a cheat sheet for public interaction might be in order. What qualifies me to provide this you may ask? My day job is technical support/customer service for a large public entity that deals with people of various races, colors, creeds, and genders. I deal with people on the phone on a daily basis, so yes, I do have some experience in this area.

So, here are some guidelines for dealing with others:

1. Don't be a dick.

Really, I shouldn't have to write this. It's a basic rule, made much more popular thanks to Mr. Wil Wheaton, but it seems it needs to be said. So how do you know if you're being a dick? Ask yourself if the way you're treating someone else is the way you would want to be treated is the way you would want to be treated. If it's not, then you're being a dick.

2. Understand that people are different, and that they may not want to be treated the same way you would want to be treated.

This ties into number 1. Yes, you should treat people the way you would want to be treated, but you need to keep in mind that their culture may make it likely they may not react well to being treated a certain way. When dealing with someone from a different culture be extra careful until you know them well enough to know what will cause them offense.

3. Biology is not an excuse.

This goes for both men and women. Men, you have a penis and it's a great thing. I know, I have one too. However, just because we have one doesn't mean we get to let it do all our thinking. Drooling over a woman you find attractive is not permissible, and the fact that it's "a natural drive" is no excuse. We are not just animals so act like it.

And ladies, don't think you are immune from this rule as well. I'm not going to specify anything for fear of offending someone (yes I'm following my own damn rules and being thoughtful), but please be aware of how your body affects your mind before making a comment.

4. Master the art of telling people to "gent bent" without actually saying that.

Yes, it is possible to call someone an idiot without actually using the word. And it is a hell of a lot more satisfying, especially if they are too dumb to realize what you just called them. Now, this is a learned skill that takes a lot of practice, and generally you get said practice by interacting with a lot of stupid people. I've had a lot of practice with this. Not at my current job of course.

5. Welcome other points of view, listen to them, and then respond appropriately.

Now this sounds rather basic doesn't it. I mean, what could be more simple than listening? Actually, a lot of things. I know, I've actually taken training to practice "active listening". It's not an easy skill to master, as it involves pushing aside preconceived notions and actually trying to understand what the person is saying.

The second part of this guideline is just as important. Once you understand what the person is saying, respond to it in a manner that won't offend them unduly. For instance, if someone makes a statement you don't agree with, and after actively listening to it you realize that they are acting under a mistaken assumption or faulting data, gently tell them what you've found to be correct and provide sources so that they can confirm on their own. If it's a matter of opinion that can't be verified by outside data then be sure to state it's your opinion and provide the reasoning behind it. Never at any point take on a mocking or condescending tone, as this will surely turn the other person against you and make any efforts you've made to convince/educate them moot.

The only caveat to this guideline is if the person proves themselves to be an irredeemable idiot after an extended conversation. If they do so, please see guideline 4 above and have fun.

That's all I have at this point. If anything I have said above offends you then I humbly apologize and seek your forgiveness, not for saying it but for giving offense. Everything I've said is true from my point of view, and if you can't see it in your heart to forgive me, then please refer to guideline 4 and have a nice day. :)

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