“Never wrestle with a pig – you’ll both get dirty, and the pig will love it”
– English Proverb
I value diversity.
I value diversity of all kinds. And I value diversity of thought above all other forms of diversity. I can’t learn anything from someone who is exactly like me. Not one thing. Ideas improve when they are attacked from different tangents. Fill a room full of people who think EXACTLY the same as you and you may as well be in the room alone.
And so, I love having conversations with people who share widely different views from my own. But only if they also share a few other values I hold dear, like mutual respect.
Diversity of thought doesn’t require diversity of values.
It’s possible to find people who share all of my values, but don’t think like I do. When I find those people, the dialogues are vibrant and we both learn from each other and gain new perspectives on the world. We don’t have to walk away in agreement, but we both walk away better. That can only happen in an atmosphere of shared values. These people often become my dearest friends.
This is not the case when values aren’t shared. Trying to have a meaningful exchange around a difference of opinion with someone who doesn’t share your values is often like wrestling with a pig. There’s a lot of action, sometimes mudslinging. Even if you’re not the one slinging the mud, nobody comes out clean. And only one of you is really enjoying the experience.
But what I’m finding is that I don’t have to wrestle with pigs to feel dirty. Just having them in my Twitter stream, or showing up on my Facebook wall can have the same effect. Allowing them into my circle has placed a higher value on diversity than mutual respect, or teamwork, or high quality relationships.
Our values are our true brand. To protect that brand we may need to be careful who we call “friends,” regardless of how loosely that is defined. Even online.
photo credit: puuikibeach on flickr