Now there’s a headline for you.
As someone who regularly posts his thoughts on the Internet you can safely assume I am a fierce advocate of free speech.
That does not mean that I like or enjoy all speech.
But I believe it must be free.
They say that the best antidote to bad speech is countering it with better speech.
I believe there is much truth in this.
The problem is, most of us don’t spend any time learning what better speech is.
And many end up getting censored.
Now that is not to say that poor use of speech should be a punishable offense and justifies someone losing their right to free speech and public platforms simply because they are not very good at it.
In fact, you could argue that there is a tremendous benefit to hearing from those who use speech poorly.
We can learn a lot from bad speech in our own quest to employ better speech. More persuasive speech. More effective speech.
These days, however, poor speech can get you into a lot of issues online if your opinions are on the “wrong” side of current issues.
On social media in particular.
We won’t get into the specific issues here, but those of you on social media know there are certain topics that are simply not to be spoken of in the eyes of the censors.
Yes, they are censors. The question is not whether or not they are censoring. The question is whether or not you agree with the censorship.
We must call it what it is so we can set the terms of the debate.
Yet, fully knowing there is a climate of censorship, many still speak in haste, poorly, and we don’t hear from them online anymore.
On the flipside, there are many who still maintain their presence on social media, some with massive followings and megaphones, without giving up their ability to speak about these taboo topics of current affairs.
They should serve as our example so we are going to take a brief look at how they do it.
Play by the rules and win
Knowing the environment we operate in, we need to learn the rules of the game so we can operate effectively and keep free speech and the discussion of ideas alive in spite of those who would rather it go away.
Remember, the antidote to a bad idea is a better one.
But that means nothing if you cannot persuade.
Even worse, if you cannot persuade, the chances are extremely high that you will do no better than to simply drive your “opponent” even deeper into his/her held belief that you are attempting to counter.
For instance, resorting to things like mocking and name calling will never persuade someone to change their view.
It will do the opposite every time.
You may think that mocking and name calling are somewhat extreme responses in a discussion of ideas. You may be thinking “what immature person resorts to mocking and name calling as an argument?”
But in our political climate on social media, this is much closer to the norm of discourse than it is reserved for a few dullards on the fringes of the debate.
Even worse, responding in such ways to the taboo current event topics of the day can result in one’s swift dismissal from the social media marketplace of ideas.
You might as well cancel your own social media accounts yourself. At least that way you can come back later.
Try having an impact if nobody can hear you. Not so easy.
I learned this the hard way being censored on Pinterest. After six months they admitted the mistake was theirs and I am extremely grateful for their recognition and for reinstating me.
But being “voiceless” for a matter of time was a difficult position to be in, although I made the best of it.
How do you win at the game?
What do those who have successfully navigated these waters done to ensure their success?
And they are out there, mind you. Sure, they may not be blasting their bullhorns the way some want them to or in a way that gives their followers the feeling of self-satisfaction they are looking for, but they are in the game and having an impact.
So how do you do so?
First things first is to determine what is off limits to say.
Then don’t say those things.
Shockingly simple but also shockingly ignored.
It may sound like giving in or giving up.
It’s actually the opposite.
If you know the rules of the game and those rules state that making a certain argument in a certain way will cause you to be kicked out of the game, then ignoring those rules results in a loss.
You may not like the rules, but your charge is to find another way to win within them.
Sadly, many have gone down swinging.
Which was a total waste of time and swings for them, because they are now out of the game, are having no impact, and did not take advantage of the gift that is hidden in censorship.
Bet you thought I would forget to get back to the headline!
The second step to win the game is the gift itself
There is a gift, and it is a lesson that those who are either not trained in any of the forms of writing or those who have not practiced or taken a keen interest in those techniques have not learned.
That lesson is how to perfect your argument by preemptively rebutting counterarguments.
It is one thing to shout your thoughts, unrefined, and somehow feel better about things.
You wouldn’t be an effective communicator, but you would be a Twitter user.
What you want to do is present an argument that cannot be assailed.
This takes a little more thought and preparation, but the results are worth it.
The technique is simple, though:
Answer your opponent’s question before they ask it.
It’s that simple, but many do not know how to do this. You might be especially unprepared to do this if you largely go through life without challenging your own beliefs.
This technique is immeasurably easier to do if you have an open mind and are receptive to learning that your beliefs were wrong, and then being able to change them.
Pride prevents many of us from doing that, but if you can do so you have gained a superpower few in the world have.
How do you perfect your argument, in simple terms?
Your first step is to write out your argument.
Then your second step is to step into the shoes of your opponent.
Poke holes in your argument as much as you are able to.
Find every objection you can. Learn how they think, what their arguments are.
Then answer them.
Once you have answered them, rewrite your tweet, statement, post, article, etc. in such a way that is also answers the objections.
If you leave those objections unanswered, your argument will immediately become null and void to those who think differently than you. The only ones who will agree with you are those who share your beliefs already and perhaps have equally not thought them out.
You will not have moved the needle and, if you are operating in an environment of censorship, your risk of being censored jumps off the charts.
Don’t willingly leave yourself vulnerable.
There is a second benefit to answering the objections first.
You may find you can’t answer the objections!
In this case, you may have won an even bigger battle.
You’ve discovered your belief set and/or argument was nothing more than bunk before you got on your horse and rode into town shouting it to the world.
Aren’t you glad you figured things out before you did that?
You know you’ve seen all the people on Twitter, Facebook, etc. who have put their ill-formed, poorly-thought out arguments and beliefs on blast to the whole world.
You probably didn’t think it was a good look.
The good news for you is that you challenge your ideas, argue them as you form them, and are better informed, more open-minded, and better able to inform and persuade thank likely over 99.9 percent of the population who are not comfortable venturing outside their ideological bubbles.
It may seem comfortable in that bubble, but the real growth is found on the outside.
That is where you find the gift.
If you use the current climate of censorship to refine your ability to process your own arguments and make them more persuasive, you have a better chance of not only staying in the game, but having an impact you otherwise wouldn’t have had.
You took an oppressive situation and came out of it with a victory you perhaps couldn’t have imagined under easier circumstances.
This is another example of why it is so vital to never take the mindset of a victim.
That would be easy, and you might have an argument there.
But that is not your path to victory.
Sometimes you can pull victory out of the most unlikely of places.
Such as attaining and utilizing more powerful, more effective, more persuasive speech in an environment where speech is increasingly censored.
And remember, it’s been said that with great power comes great responsibility.
You now have a superpower, so use it for good!
If you like this article, you might love my gratitude journal!
I wrote the introduction to help guide you and provide you with motivation to start your mindset shift and contribute to your growth, as well as to continue on even higher as you go.
If nothing else, having something – anything – to serve as a motivational reminder can help a great deal. Whether it’s a gratitude journal or something else.
Stay consistent and watch your life change positively.
You have the power to decide what you believe.
So believe in the good and believe in you!