The Virtue of Silence, Part III

As before, the source material is here.

The Internet

The beauty of the internet is that it allows free flowing communication in an unprecedented way. Yet this also means that communication on the internet is not subject to the same rules of etiquette that apply to public life. Extreme crassness and incivility plague forums and blogs. It’s as if there is a competition on who can come up with the most shocking and caustic thing to say. This severe form of incivility creates an environment of hostility that hinders productive dialogue and debate.

Applying the virtue of silence on the internet

1. Never say something to a stranger on the internet that you would not say to a stranger in person.

The internet provides a cloak of anonymity behind which people feel free to say whatever they want. Yet the words which we both write and speak are our creations. We must take ownership for them. Never write something you would not be proud to have attached with your real name. Before you hit “Send” in an email or a blog comment, stop and ask yourself: “Would I use these words if this person was standing right in front of me?” If not, reword your communication. Just taking the time to think before you publish something on the web can help increase the amount of civility on the net.

2. Don’t attack people personally

Certainly here at AoM, and on the internet in general, you are free to disagree with the ideas of others. But do not personally attack the people behind those ideas. Many a blog user will make a valid comment only to end with “You’re an idiot!” And some will dispense with the valid argument part altogether. Using personal attacks adds nothing to the conversation and only shows that you do not have anything insightful or intelligent to offer.

3. Don’t just debunk things

Here on the internet postmodern deconstruction is alive and well. Many an internet user’s energy is devoted to poking holes in every idea that crosses their path. But cynicism is easy. Chronic debunkers don’t do any of the hard work it takes to create something, and then they barely lift a finger to tear things down. Digg users are notorious for this. There could be a post about a man saving a bus load of lavender smelling babies from a river and some digg user would find a way to make a snide, caustic comment about it. There’s nothing wrong with criticism, but be constructive with your criticism. If you have nothing substantive to add to the conversation, it is better to be silent.

4. Stop the excessive vulgarity

Nothing shows a juvenile mentality and a lack of class like excessive vulgarity. While salty language has been on the rise in normal conversation as well, the proliferation of profanity on the internet is excessive. Because of the information glut on the internet, men feel they must pepper their comments with over the top language to keep them from being lost in the shuffle. But if such additions are needed to get attention, you clearly did not have anything meaningful to say in the first place. Before you publish a comment with the F-bomb used as every other word, try to find another, more respectful way to say it.

* * * * *

This is perhaps the most necessary, yet least likely to be used or taken advantage of.  Some people, somewhere, on whatever forum or blog or random website, are going to respond to whatever video, picture or post in a way to assert their own superiority and correctness over each other, while at the same time putting the other person down it what they believe to be the most humiliating and derogatory way possible.

One of the aggravating things is that there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it.  Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.  Freedom of speech and all that.  It’s a shame that people choose to abuse it the way they do.
Oh, well.  That’s it for the virtue of silence.  The virtue of resolution is next.  I’ve got some reading to do now. 🙂


The Virtue of Silence, Part II

As before, my source material for the virtue of silence may be found here.


Today men are often pressed for time, stressed, and subject to daily annoyances. These frustrations are then frequently taken out on those in the service industry. Often made to feel like peons in their normal lives, these men see their interactions with people in the service industry as an opportunity to finally be treated like a king and boss someone around.

Applying the virtue of silence with customer service

1. Don’t unload your anger on those who are not at fault for your problem.

Uncouth is the man who takes out his frustrations on whoever is in closest proximity whether it is their fault or not. This guy will yell at the waiter if there is a hair in is food. He will yell at the computer support representative because his computer crashed. He will yell at the person at the airline ticket counter because he was late and the plane didn’t wait for him. Save your indignation for the the real cause of your problem, especially if that person is you.

>I’ve got 3+ years of experience working in a customer service environment, most of it in retail, and I have my share (as well as heard my share) of difficult customer stories.  Some ended with the employee in tears, some ended with the customer storming off in anger for not getting the result they desired, and some ended with a “wth just happened” sense in the air.

Using the above example from the Art of Manliness: the waiter just brought the food out, he wasn’t responsible for making it.  The attendant at the ticket counter is not responsible for the passenger missing his plane.  It is not fair to take your anger out on the person behind the counter.  They do the best that they can and yelling at them will not allow you to get your way.

2. Don’t talk on your cell phone while simultaneously talking to someone serving you.

Some people will talk on their cell phone while they place their order and pay for it. These people believe that the person running the register is just an automaton designed to do their bidding, and thus they need only devote ½ of their attention to addressing this robot. They also believe the person they are talking to on the phone doesn’t mind being ignored periodically. They are wrong on both counts.

> I’ve run into this scenario many times both in my previous retail jobs and my current food industry job.  Someone comes up to the counter, talking on their phone and you just stand there trying to ring up their purchase or take their order.  You attempt to get their attention or convey information and sometimes the customer will glare at you, or perhaps just toss their credit card on the counter without acknowledging what you said.  Sometimes this occurs on the opposite side of the spectrum.  The customer will come up on their phone, but fortunately for you, they either end the call or physically set the phone down and place their order or complete their purchase and go their merry way.  I can assure you that while the person attending the register may be smiling and polite, inwardly they are wishing for you to shut the h*** up and get on with the transaction. There is a reason it’s called ‘customer service’.  The person behind the counter – the one you’re ignoring by remaining on your phone – is serving you, the customer.  These people get paid very little money for the amount of B.S. that they have to put up with at times.  I know.  I’ve been there many times myself.

3. Have a little patience

In Italy, people linger over their dinner for hours as several courses are slowly brought out. In America, men blow their top when their blooming onion appetizer comes out 5 minutes too late. And they act like their grandma died if their burger has been topped with the wrong cheese. These men believe that paying $8.00 for a meal entitles them to be king for a day. They are in serious need of some perspective.

> “I know how to shoot.” “Yes, I saw.  Very ‘American’.  Fire enough bullets and hope to hit the target.” (The League of Extraordinary Gentleman)  What is it with the ‘satisfy me now’ mentality?  I know that quote doesn’t go with the ‘satisfy me now’, but it’s a good example of the lack of patience that everyone seems to reek with.  Take a chill pill, deep breath, or perform a Vulcan meditation technique…ok, not really that last one.  But seriously, calm yourself down.  There is no reason for someone to lose their temper because their food is late or the wrong cheese got put on the sandwich.  I can understand asking something to be remade if you were allergic to a certain ingredient that was accidentally included in your meal, but otherwise…

4. Err on the side of understanding

Before you berate someone for what you believe is sub par service, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes. Is your waiter slow in bringing out your order? His section probably just got slammed, some kid knocked over his soda on the floor, and one of the cooks called in sick. He may well be doing the best he can. We never fully know what happens behind the scenes of people’s lives. The cranky woman making your coffee was just served with divorce papers. The scatter brained woman checking out your groceries is having trouble concentrating because her child is sick in the hospital. You never know the whole story. So cut these people some slack.

> Need I say more?  This last section says it very well.  Cut the other person some slack.  They are doing the best they can under whatever circumstances are in effect.

“Do not speak unless you can improve the silence.”

* * * * *

There is one more part to the Virtue of Silence, and it’s going to focus on everyone’s favorite discussion area (not!) – the internet.