Food for Thought

This post has been modified from the original.

Sometimes, to my total surprise I ace the techie stuff. I recently imported content from an old website to this one, and no tears were shed. While what I did would be no big deal for any of the web designers I know, for me it’s fantastic progress. Something worked.

I’m also excited because I’m enrolled in the Canadian Marketing Association Digital Media Certificate. A nice diversion from job hunting!

Food for thought: There was an article in today’s National Post offering perspectives on the lack of female opinion writers in journalism. Journalists Barbara Kay and Jonathan Kay both provided their take on the subject.

Jonathan used the example of his behaviour when playing Trivial Pursuit, stating “…what I lack in knowledge, I make up for in self-assurance…” and explaining that the way (op-ed columnists) distinguish themselves is with their “certainty”  – a word that caught my attention.

He wrote, “We take sides and argue the hell out of them. Our special genius is to organise the miasma of commonly known news tidbits into an impressive-seeming argument, then we hunt out sources that confirm what we think we already know. We are argument machines. Whatever the issue … we have a position staked out.”

One of the qualities that make me unique as a leader and strategist is the ability to see multiple sides of an issue – that 360° perspective – that helicopter view of a situation. That doesn’t necessarily make me more “certain”, although I’m decisive when the occasion arises. 

Certainty is defined as the tendency to feel confident in one’s opinions.  A  high certainty score in something like a Harrison Assessment indicates a very strong-minded person who gets along well with people with the same beliefs, but who often has difficulty with people with different beliefs (opinions). Might this apply that a very low score indicates a weak-willed person who accedes to everyone! A person’s degree of certaintly is balanced by other traits and factors such as reflectiveness, warmth, helpfulness, collaborative, flexibility and openness to self-improvement.

Barbara Kay stated that one reason women are under-represented in opinion writing is because “they don’t enjoy competitive data-mining [I do!], or duking it out in public with testosterone-amped opponents (not to mention ruthless readers)” Got that right. I am seldom up for duking it out with anyone anymore. But back to Jonathan who wrote, “…the more finely attuned social instincts of women also cause them to be more immediately repulsed by verbal conflict and strained contests of wits; and to inhabit the real world of family, friends and productive work…” Really?

My quick take on all this? The real world is messy, multi-layered and nuanced. Context or lack of it affects certainty. Context is like rich layers, or an ever-expanding ring around what so often, in debate and op-ed is a mere pinpoint, a spec at the centre of several overlapping rings.

For all of us who strive to put forward well-informed opinions and who are not immediately “certain” about everything, all is nuance and selecting a thesis requires much investigation and forethought before we put our stake in the ground. 

I appreciated Barbara’s template for creating a decent op-ed piece –“news hook, thesis, evidence, pre-emptive smackdown of the opposition’s primary argument, conclusion.” Certainly ‘conviction’ and ‘disciplined aggression’ are needed to hold reader’s attention and respect for opinion editorials.  As a newblogger, thinking about all this was engaging for me, because blogging is merely one more forum for sharing one’s opinion; an opinion which may or may not have adequate layers of context to justify any degree of certainty at all. 

Anyway, it’s not that I can’t argue a point, rather most often I don’t want to. Debate or smackdown arguments to defend a position wear me out. Perhaps that comes from growing up in a household where several family members were indeed “argument machines” who routinely, forcefully, vehemently put forward and defended opinions; even those that fell into the realm of wild speculation. It seems to me that people sometimes steadfastly hold on to ‘rightness’ at all costs, while not doing the necessary work to sift through enough layers of context, from a mindset of intellectual curiosity and a genuine willingness to hear someone else’s; anyone else’s perspective at all.

So then the question becomes, how much sifting or digging for facts and context is enough? Where do you draw the line?What is right and what is wrong? Where are the ethics? When does one stop adding more rich layers and glowing rings of context around an opinion and be “certain” once and for all? We all must be certain-enough to just get on with it sometimes, and make choices, preferably on the basis of shared values and maybe even concensus-building! On some level, it all goes back to the old adage that “nothing is certain” and “everything changes,” … oh, and “never say never” with respect to what you will or won’t do (or think).