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On hijacking conversations: But what about [different issue]?

September 21, 2016

This is a pattern that must stop.

Person #1: “[Fill in the blank] is a huge issue! Yet another example of [Fill in the blank] just happened. That’s [an unreasonably large number] times it’s happened this year / lives affected!”

Person #2: “But what about [different issue]? Why isn’t anyone upset about [different issue]?”

This is never, ever appropriate. Stop being Person #2. Person #2 is, at the very best, derailing a comment or conversation. At worst, he or she is strongly implying that [Fill in the blank] is far less important than [different issue], and that Person 1 should stop talking about it.

Person #2 is saying SHUT UP. He or she is saying STOP TALKING ABOUT THAT THING. DO NOT TALK ABOUT IT.

This is inappropriate. Stop it.

Other, ridiculous examples include:

At home

Person #1: “Jimmy’s low English grade is a huge issue! Yet another example of Jimmy’s low English grade just happened. That’s the fourth six weeks he’s nearly failed English this year!”

Person #2: “But what about Jane’s messy room? Why isn’t anyone upset about Jane’s messy room?”

Jane’s messy room may indeed be a very big problem. But it is not what we are talking about right now, and we have to address Jimmy’s low English grade.

At work

Person #1: “Server outages are a huge issue! Yet another example of server outages just happened. That’s 14 times it’s happened this year!”

Person #2: “But what about network security? Why isn’t anyone upset about network security?”

Network security is indeed very important, and we can schedule a meeting for that at another time…even later today, if you like. But this particular meeting / conversation / email thread has the subject line “Server Outages”.

About the issues

Person #1: “Police violence against black people is a huge issue! Yet another example of Police violence against black people just happened. That’s an unreasonably large number of times it’s happened this year!”

Person #2: “But what about black on black violence? Why isn’t anyone upset about black on black violence?”

It is, again, entirely possible that ‘black on black violence” is a big issue that needs addressing. So is police violence against black people. So stop hijacking the damn conversation every time it comes up. Start your own, separate conversation about your issue.

Do not tell Person 1 to shut up.

He or she does not have to stop talking, for you to have your own conversation.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. someone permalink
    September 21, 2016 5:27 pm

    Because it’s so much better to have a thousand comments rehash the same tired “arguments” over and over until it would drive a comment generating program crazy.

    • October 1, 2016 12:53 am

      People need to discuss and share. If it tires you, don’t continue reading comments. Discourse is important.

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