There's both a business and personal case for being clear about what, who and when to ignore. The former has to do with productivity. The latter, with serenity. Or what I call: clarity of mind. Together, the two provide a strong basis for success and fulfillment.
Moreover, the case for never arguing with uninformed people has already been made. Even as regards American Politics. Becoming a Professional Ignorer is one prerequisite. We also addressed it in the Two-Dimensional Thinking is for a Bygone Era blog. As well as the How to Spot & Block Bad People series, plus the Strategic Social Networking series, to name a few. In the world of highly productive, mission and purpose-driven people and organizations, what matters most is authentic credibility (not to be confused with noise), usefulness, decorum and professionalism.
Is everyone entitled to their opinion?
Perhaps, but that doesn't mean we need to pay the slightest bit of attention.
There are two things that disqualify someone from being listened to:
Lack of Standing: If you are not a customer, a stakeholder or someone with significant leverage in spreading the word, we will ignore you. And we should.
When you walk up to an artist and tell her you don't like her painting style, you should probably be ignored. If you've never purchased expensive original art, don't own a gallery and don't write an influential column in ArtNews, then by all means, you must be ignored.
If you're working in Accounts Payable and you hate the company's new logo, the people who created it should and must ignore your opinion. It just doesn't matter to anyone but you.
I'm being deliberately harsh here for a reason. If we're going to do great work, it means that some people aren't going to like it. And if the people who don't like it don't have an impact on what happens to the work after it's complete, the only recourse of someone doing great work is to ignore their opinion.
No Credibility: An opinion needs to be based on experience and expertise. I know you don't like cilantro, but whether or not you like it is not extensible to the population at large. On the other hand, if you have a track record of matching the taste sensibility of my target market, then I very much want to hear what you think.
People with a history of bad judgment, people who are quick to jump to conclusions or believe in unicorns or who have limited experience in the market—these people are entitled to opinions, but it's not clear that the creator of the work needs to hear them. They've disqualified themselves because the method they use for forming opinions about how the market will respond is suspect. The scientific method works, and if you're willing to suspend it at will and just go with your angry gut, we don't need to hear from you.
Has it ever been easier to experience an emotion at the click of a mouse? It's a choice.
You can instantly become enraged, merely by reading the comments of some blogs. You can amplify your self-doubt by checking out what the trolls on Twitter [and elsewhere] have just said about you. And if you're really interested in bringing yourself down, go read some reviews of your work online.
Sure, if you want an argument, it's easy to find a never-ending one online.
The question is, why would you want to?
Uninformed is a temporary condition, fixed more easily than ever.
Ignorant, on the other hand, is the dangerous situation where someone making a decision is uninformed and either doesn't know or doesn't care about his lack of knowledge.
The internet lets us become informed, if we only are willing to put in the time and the effort. That's new—the ability to easily and confidently look it up, learn about it, process it and publish to see if you got it right.
Alas, the internet also creates an environment where it's possible to feel just fine about being ignorant. It's easier than ever to live in a silo where we are surrounded by others who think it's just great to not know.
“Ignorant” used to be a fairly vague epithet, one that we often misused to describe someone who disagreed with us. Today, because it represents a choice, the intentional act of not-knowing, I think it carries a lot more weight.
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