Many years ago I was commissioned to write a training manual and conduct workshops for employees of a Fortune 500 company. With some amount of frustration, the managers of the company told me they were losing thousands of dollars daily dealing with conflict among their work force.
I did a fairly thorough analysis of the work place, got to know members of the teams I would be delivering my training to, and after a time I sat down in my study and began writing.
The phrase “Celebration of Differences” worked its way into the theme and the title of my manual, and it was the focus of my work with this group of people. This theme has also embedded itself in my spirit as I’ve journeyed through my personal world.
I am intrigued, and encouraged, by the depth of differences among people. Some call it style, some call it tastes, some call it preferences. The unique ways in which we as individuals select our values is the essence of what makes living among people so fascinating.
And sometimes frustrating.
Have you ever met anyone whose tastes were identical to you in every way? Me, neither. I’m glad I haven’t!
The meeting of two sets of values can be a colossal collision, like the fury of two armies on an ancient battlefield. Or it can be a delicious waltz, a spontaneous, graceful choreograph that would put jealousy into the heart of the summer’s breeze.
Last night I was reading through a forum of Second Life shopkeepers who were debating the merits of the administrators applying a minimal listing fee for all items in the Marketplace stores. For the most part, I was impressed at how the participants of the debate were able to discuss their positions with reason and respect for varying opinions.
Then Pete (not his real name) entered the dialog. I could see from the thread that Pete was well known to most of the other members of the group, and apparently had a reputation for being pretty divisive and even obnoxious.
Pete’s first comment in the discussion was an attack on all the "junk" that smothered the “good stuff” on the marketplace. I paused to do a quick mental survey of my inventory, and then returned to my reading.
Amazingly, few people rallied back defensively at Pete on his inflammatory language and somewhat arrogant, condescending tone, though a fascinating exchange of ideas ensued discussing how one could differentiate between “junk” and “good stuff.” Some people said that most inexpensive items were obviously junk, others argued that they had paid thousands of Linden dollars for items that were poorly scripted or animated. They discussed the problems of droll, overused textures and uncreative stitching together of prefab components. Some spoke with exasperation why their items, clearly in the “good stuff” category did not sell while the “junk” rolled off the shelves at an alarming rate.
After an exchange that covered several weeks and over a hundred comments, the group had not decided how junk differs from good stuff. I smiled and moved on.
I find myself smiling and moving on a lot when people debate the pros and cons of junk and good stuff, of appropriate behavior and inappropriate behavior, decent people and crappy people.
It is a debate without resolution, and my guess is that few if any people are ever nudged from their positions, even when the debate is done with the utmost respect and adherence to sound forensic principles and established protocols of rhetoric. Why? Because we just don’t like to move too far from our intrinsic preferences. We enjoy our own sense of taste, our own style. It is at the core of who we are as individuals.
Whether the subject is politics, or human behavior, or virtual items for sale at a virtual markeplace for a virtual world, diversity of thought is good stuff!
Or, to some, just junk!
"Junk" or "Good Stuff?" You decide!