Here’s The Trick to Dealing With “Unpleasant” People in Audio Forums

Here’s The Trick to Dealing With “Unpleasant” People in Audio Forums

“This is the most stupid thing I’ve heard in my life”

This was a comment posted in a Facebook audio group referring to a piece I wrote for PMA Magazine. To my surprise, I wasn’t offended by it. But I would have been several years ago. Why then and not now? Because I’m better now at controlling my emotional reactions, especially since watching this YouTube video made by a very wise man.

When it comes to disagreements or conflicts, there are two games we can play. The first one is called “How to make life more wonderful”; the second, “Who’s right”. Many of us choose to play the latter. Those interested in audio equipment are no exception. Just look at various audio forums. You see people being rude or contemptuous to one another all the time. Worst of all are the trolls who’ll do anything to derail an entire conversation.

It’s tempting to suggest we just put trolls under one simplistic category and punish them. But there are a few reasons why this won’t work. First, there is a constant stream of people like them. Second, the rest of us, the “not trolls”, occasionally behave like trolls, which is where the line can get blurry. In the online space, it’s often hard to tell the nice kids from the naughty ones. After all, none of us is immune to occasionally hurting others. The only way for you to hurt no one ever is to be a nicely-behaving dead person.

So, is there a solution to dealing with actual trolls? Yes, and it starts by us taking the matter into our own hands instead of expecting the perpetrators to stop misbehaving or the forum cops to jail them; in other words, the trick is to know how to respond to them. And the only way that works, not only sometimes but every time, is to refuse to play “Who’s right” and start playing “How to make life more wonderful”, which is an interesting game. Once you learn how to play it, you will start noticing some positive changes in your human interactions, not only in audio forums but also in your private life. It takes a lot of practice but the rules are rather simple. In fact, there is only one rule to remember:

When someone offends you, don’t pay attention to what they say. And don’t pay attention to what they think, either, especially what they think of you. Instead, only pay attention to what they need. That’s it. That’s the only rule of the game. Never pay attention to their words or their thoughts. Only to their needs.

What kind of needs are we talking about? Not the physical needs, such as to quench your thirst or upgrade your speakers. When dealing with conflicts, all we are talking about is the emotional need. Based on my observations, there are particular needs that emerge most often in audio forums:

“I need to be heard”

“I need to be respected”

“I need to be admired”

And they all boil down to the need for validation. Oprah Winfrey, who has talked to some of the biggest celebrities, once said that’s exactly what all famous people have in common. No exception. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an iconic musician or the President of the United States. They all need to feel validated.

She was talking about the people who get validated over and over. Now what does that say about us commoners? We may not feel the need to be validated as often as celebrities, but we all still feel the need to be validated. That’s why we scream things like, “Buying high-end cables is just stupid” or “Tube amps are for dinosaurs”. And expressing opposite opinions in a condescending manner is also a cry for the same need.

Now, how do you let the “unpleasant” person know that you play by a different rule? Not by pretending to agree with them. Certainly not by being sarcastic. The answer is to recognize their need for validation. Mind you, I did not say fulfil their need. I said recognize it. That’s all you have to do.

This can be done in many forms. For example, when your spouse tells you that you are selfish because all you do is listen to your stupid audio system and don’t help out around the house, what do you do? Well, I will tell you first what not to do: don’t listen to the words “selfish” and “stupid”. It is not about you or your system. They’re just expressions of her hidden needs. Instead of defending yourself or counterattacking, you could respond with something like, “I see that you are upset because you have so much to do”. Being upset is a feeling. When you see someone’s feeling, you see their need. And when you see someone’s need, you see their heart.

Notice I’m not advising you specifically to start washing dishes today. I am urging you to simply see the core of the person. That’s enough for now. No one has to tell you what to do next because after seeing their heart often enough and sincerely enough, your heart will know exactly what to do.

But what if the person saying horrible things isn’t your loved one but a stranger in an audio forum? If the opening quote above was directed at you, you might think, ‘What an unpleasant, nasty jerk. Does that person deserve kindness and sincerity from me?’

Except it’s the wrong question. The right question is not about what they deserve but what you deserve. You deserve peace of mind. You deserve a good feeling about yourself. That’s why you want to play a different game.

So next time someone attacks you for praising a cable that costs $500, and you know in your heart it doesn’t matter who’s right, just say “I see you are annoyed that people seem to waste their money”. Or say nothing. But make sure the silence is coming from the right place, a playground where a friendlier game is being played.

Being kind and patient to a misbehaving stranger may not make life that much more wonderful, but at least it will keep it from becoming less so. One of the cardinal rules in audio design goes, “First, do no harm”, and it equally applies here, if rephrased to “First, do no further harm”.

2024 PMA Magazine. All rights reserved.

Dear readers,

As you might know, PMA is an independent consumer audio and music magazine that prides itself on doing things differently. For the past three years, we’ve dedicated ourselves to bringing you an authentic listening experience. Our commitment? Absolute authenticity. We steer clear of commercial influences, ensuring that what you hear from us is genuine, unfiltered, and true to our values.

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