A few times on the show as of late, I’ve caught myself repetitiously expressing that I find a sort of “harmony within the disharmony” of fan opinions. While I think in the context of our discussions this makes sense, I don’t consider myself to be the most concise person when verbally expressing my thoughts. The result being a waterfall of words gushing out as if to simultaneously morph several examples at once, into one defining sentence. Yeah, not possible haha. What do I mean about finding harmony within the disharmony though and how does this correlate to Halo? Read on.
Before we fully dive in though, I want to mention that while I’m going to keep the focus on Halo and its fandom, I feel like much of this can apply elsewhere in other forms of media as well as in general conversations.
1. Absolute Opinions/Hot Takes:
Everyone has an opinion on Halo. What makes this one particular game the “best ever”. Why some aspect is a “failure” to them. Which story or multiplayer is the “best” (or “worst”). What will make the next one great.
Look, I get it completely. We’re all guilty of this to some extent. Part of the fun of discussing Halo with people is because of the inherent love we feel toward it. Even when we dislike an aspect of Halo, we zone in on it with obsessive contempt because at the very bottom of its foundation, at it’s core – is our love for Halo. Have you ever asked someone what their favorite Halo is though only to be met with a resounding…short conversation deflating answer?
The person reading this: What’s your favorite Halo?
Person: Easy. Halo 3!
The person reading this: Oh nice! Why is Halo 3 your favorite?
Person: Because it’s amazing.
Let me give you a polar opposite example that also leads to a similar deflating answer:
Person. Halo 5’s story is hot garbage.
The person reading this: Oh come on it’s not all bad. What makes it hot garbage to you?
Person. Because it’s trash. It has a terrible story with boring characters and nothing makes sense.
These are two examples of absolute opinions. At their source, they’re completely subjective but to the person – these opinions are stated as fact. The be all end all world defining sealed fact on the matter. Most of the time, the conversation will die out due to a result of this. Either the person is kind but isn’t emotionally interested enough to want to discuss deeper on the subject or, they’re so emotionally invested they’re potentially salty and as a result perverse their subjective opinion by conveying it as fact and if you don’t agree, you are wrong in their eyes. The result being you lose interest.
Granted, conversations aren’t always so black and white regarding those two examples, but whether it was in person or online you’ve absolutely experienced something akin to one or the other before and potentially done it yourself. It’s easy to point the finger toward some random anon online, but as fans of Halo, when you experience an aspect of what you love about it being dismissed or attacked, you can’t help but want to rally your voice as a way of balancing the scale or “educating” someone. I don’t personally believe anyone is “right” in their opinion. The opinion itself being a culmination of personal experiences and gained perspective equating into a perception. It’s just unfortunate when someone does take that kind of hard stance as it creates the perception that conversation cannot go far with that person. Meaning, both people lose here. The opinionated one for missing out on talking about something that at the root, they love. The conversing one for using that defining moment to give up trying to talk further about a subject they love.
TL;DR: Absolute opinions and hot takes suck. They invoke more gaslighting debates than actual conversation.
2. Listening with the intention to hear rather than reply:
This is where being on the receiving end of an absolute opinion or hot take begins to take shape and can make us react either defensively, or empathetically. When discussing something about Halo with others, there’s an inherent part of ourselves seeking to discover others who are going to agree with us. Who doesn’t want to be related to and relate? How amazing it feels to find someone who shares the same opinion or stance as you. In seeking harmony with others however, we sometimes minimize the chances that we actually hear what someones saying. Meaning, sometimes however innocent the question may even be we end up with an agenda as opposed to actually hearing what the person has to say.
If I were to ask Bryan why he doesn’t enjoy the multiplayer as much as Campaign only to react in defense of the multiplayer after hearing his answer (if I even let him finish it), I’m listening with an agenda. I’m listening with the intention to reply with scold, convince him why he should feel just like me or sell him on why he should feel otherwise. I’m not really listening to what he’s actually communicating. I’m only hearing what I don’t want to hear in this situation and reacting to it.
Most people don’t enjoy someone disagreeing with them. A hot take or absolute opinion on a weapon or a character can even flare others up in defense that turns into full blown arguments as mentioned before. Why does this happen? Four potential reasons:
1) because someone is expressing their opinion as if fact.
2) because you feel concern that the person expressing their opinion so strongly will sway others.
3) because the person expressing their opinion as fact is non-verbally communicating their unwillingness to entertain any notion of the opposite.
4) because you were listening but not hearing. To listen in this context is to take in verbal information. To hear in this context as well, is to emotionally remove your feelings from the matter so as to focus on what’s being communicated.
Again, conversations aren’t always so black and white as the examples I’m presenting. My intention here is to showcase the communication breakdown that happens when all we wanted to do to begin with was communicate together when there’s a sense of stubbornness or unwillingness to compromise. It sucks when someone feels differently than us about Halo. It’s hard to not take such hard stance opinions as a personal attack on our very own. Finding the middle ground is so inherently complex because it requires a line of mutual respect. If Bryan disagrees with me on Halo 4’s Campaign being the shortest in the mainline games but he’s willing to listen with an open mind, this creates an opportunity for both of us. Bryan, for potentially learning a perspective he wasn’t previously considering. Me, for being able to discuss more about something I feel I’ve analyzed at length through the years. Maybe nothing changes on the surface, however there is an open flow of communication being given and taken both both parties. With that, much potential for good despite not sharing a similar opinion.
3. Harmony within Disharmony:
To perhaps a fault, I’ve often experienced others feeling frustrated over my disagreeing on something. I disagree a lot. When I do so, I don’t believe I am right or more right than the other. When I do so, this isn’t to imply I’m better educated. I consider myself more wrong than right in general, so unless its to give the friend shit, it’s never my intention to make the other person or people feel frustrated at all. I’m not attempting to anything. I have no motives here. I’m simply stating I disagree and follow that up as respectful as I can given the context. In my personal experience regarding Halo topics, I often find more stimulation out of disagreeing with someone than I do agreeing with them. Now, by all accounts I genuinely LOVE existing in agreement with someone over something. This is more than enough for me. It makes me feel like I can talk to this person more, perhaps on a deeper level because we share a favorite map or we both love Spartan Palmer.
If this person and I both found Cairo Station on Legendary to be the most difficult level on Legendary in any Halo, I feel like I can begin to open up and express more about why I feel that way. Likely too, they will as well. I treasure this because I love to find the common ground and share in the nurturing and joy of our mutual feelings.
With disharmony though, the word has negative connotations attached to it. We hear it and instantly think bad. It doesn’t always have to be so though. I see so often in the general community lately those with make or break stances toward what will make Halo Infinite great or what will completely ruin their fun of it for example. In some ways, that’s incredibly frustrating to witness. Why? Because the person can’t let it stand on its own two feet first. Yet, there’s a middle ground to be found here in regards to conversation. Which starts with practicing empathy.
There’s been a few times in our discord I’ve witnessed a user expressing dissatisfaction with something but instead of another person(s) reacting defensively, there’s a reply of understanding or a reply asking for more information. As a result, the one being asked to speak more doesn’t feel challenged and from there an actual conversation begins to blossom.
We forget as people that it’s simply okay to exist in the company of someone without having to agree with them. We often take someone disagreeing with us as a challenge of sorts, making us take defensive formation for the seemingly oncoming verbal judo battle. We’ve been conditioned this way in life but this doesn’t have to be as such. To find harmony within disharmony is to be grateful for the conversation itself opposed to its contents. The beauty in this is
there is so much more opportunity to learn through disagreeing than there ever will be in agreeing.
It’s never to say it’s the better of the two. It’s to simply say that disagreeing can very much foster just as stimulating conversations (if not more).
There’s a lot currently people in the community disagree on. There’s going to be a lot more in the coming months. We can’t stop someone from dropping hurtful, counterproductive comments. However we can still make the effort to give respect and validation to those who don’t share the same opinions as us. If someone disagrees with me that Halo 4’s sound design felt plastic but still makes the effort to talk to me about Halo, chances are I’m going to ease off my hot take, engage and quickly turn it around to how much I LOVE Halo 4 and why because I felt heard. I felt like I was able to share my view without being shunned for it and therein lay an opportunity to have my views changed, or come around to the other persons perspective.
We can be a much better community. We just have to remember to be less opinionated in how we express our stances, and that to to disagree doesn’t always have to equate to being challenged. To agree means to co-exist in harmony. To disagree can mean to co-exist in discovering harmony through your differences. The Arbiter and Chief did it, we can too.