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We live in a world where click-bait, outrage headlines get all the hits. Negative news spreads faster than positive. Bloggers will tell you to write controversial posts because they tend to get more shares and generate more comments. I tried this style in posts like this and this but it never felt like me. Even posts where I was passionate about the subject, it felt wrong to cross the line into all out negative warfare.
What is the Principle of Charity?
I came across the Principle of Charity reading The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. Essentially, this is giving people the benefit of the doubt. The Principle of Charity is the philosophy of interpreting other people’s statements “in their best or most reasonable form, not in the worst or most offensive way possible.” (Lukianoff, Haidt, pg. 244).
This is the principle in philosophy and rhetoric of making an effort to interpret other people’s statement in their best or most reasonable form…The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
This principle was like a light bulb going off in my head. It made me think back to being a kid, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. But this took it a step further, try to see the good in the other side.
This principle has so much to do with the turmoil in the online world we live in. People break off into their own groups and tribes. Mom tribes, fitness tribes, military spouse tribes, political tribes… the list goes on. Tribalism is not what we should aim for. Instead of appealing to our greater humanity, tribalism pits us against each other.
Instead of appealing to our greater humanity, tribalism pits us against each other.
The internet was supposed to give us an open forum for free speech. It was supposed to be a place where we could expand our minds, learn new things, and challenge our beliefs. That’s what I like so much about the blogging community.
In my blogging community, I rarely see a blog post so engrossed in negativity and shock value. Blog posts are typically long form writing. It takes time and effort to write a blog post. When we put more thought into our writing, I think it makes us critique our work. The editing process gives us the opportunity to evaluate our tone of voice. We have the chance to give our readers and whatever we’re writing about the benefit of the doubt.
Unlike with social media, blogging is about explaining a position, a thought process. When we write a blog post we’re trying to say something more than the first thing on our mind. That’s the type of blogger I want to be. I want my readers to feel welcome into my little space on the internet. I want everyone to sense their humanity in my posts, not automatically revert to tribal thinking.
If you’re interested in reading more about about these ideas I highly suggest The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up A Generation For Failure. It’s an interesting read about the evolution of the American education system and parenting styles. Authors, Lukianoff and Haidt, address the three great untruths woven into the Millennial generation: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people.
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