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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

Embracing Gray in a Black & White World

Life isn't about 100% right or 100% wrong.

A long time ago, I decided to try to see the best in every situation. Despite my opinions on the Promo UPFront Podcast, I believe that a realist can have a bright, sunny outlook on life. I write this because I know – I’ve experienced – the positive things that can come from extraordinarily tricky situations. Lately, however, I am struggling mightily to find the best when it comes to specific event: the 2020 presidential election.

Before you read any further, this is very much a political post, but not in the way you might think. To be very clear – and as the title might indicate – I am not advocating one candidate, side, perspective, ideology, vision, or party over another in any way, shape, or form. Nor will I disclose where my vote landed (I voted early) because, frankly, it’s none of your business. Instead, this post is about my thoughts on the rancor and division I see everywhere, especially on social media.

Perhaps it’s because I’m knocking on the door of 51, but I’ve never seen much value in blindly broadcasting political opinions to the world. Not that I don’t love myself a good, thoughtful, and respectful discourse with close friends or family about politics – I do. But, at least to me, that’s entirely different than transmitting political soundbites into the flatscreen void of social media awaiting some sort of validation. So, because of this, I remain silent on every political post I see as the “discussions” perpetually turn into some variation of this:

When I see a post like the above, I immediately think the following:

  • What is the author expecting as a result of that post

  • No one has ever changed their political views as a result of a post on social media

  • I gain absolutely nothing by participating, so I will scroll on by

As I stated above, I generally remain silent, and that silence has been noticed. In the past few weeks, I’ve received messages from friends who are political opposites based on their social media posts. I find it interesting that both of them noticed that I didn’t engage with either of their political postings to the point where they felt compelled to message me to ensure I had seen them. After sharing with both that I had seen their posts, each asked me a variant of the same question: “why didn’t you comment? You can’t agree with (the other side!)”

That, my friends, is how we seem to think about elections and social media: If Person A doesn’t immediately – and enthusiastically – support Person B’s perspective, then Person A must catagorically disagree with everything Person B believes. I’m sorry (not really), but life doesn’t work that way. If I’m at a wedding and I have a choice between chicken and steak, more often than not, I’m ordering the steak. Judging by social media, many would extrapolate that to mean that not only do I only eat steak but that I hate chicken and every other poultry as well. This would be a foolish and incorrect conclusion.

Ordering steak over chicken doesn’t mean that I hate chicken. Drinking Jack Daniels over Maker’s Mark doesn’t mean I hate Maker’s Mark. Voting for Candidate A doesn’t mean I hate everyone who supports Candidate Z.

This has a professional application as well. When we start thinking – and acting – in terms of either 100% black or 100% white, we fail to see the true gray areas where most people reside. When that happens, we close ourselves to the essential tenet in business after trust and relationships: compromise. Without compromise and seeing the areas of commonality where agreement can occur, there is no chance for a fruitful – let alone profitable – business transaction.

In business and life, I will continue to reject the black and white while embracing the gray. To me, that is the optimistic approach….even as an affirmed realist.

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