Last week, I happened to watch “DEBATE! Niko House v. Matt Christiansen on Michael Bennett’s Arrest” on YouTube. And it was bad.
Like really bad. Like I-couldn’t-make-myself-watch-the-whole-thing bad.
To give you the background details as far as I understand them, Matt Christiansen did an opinion video on Michael Bennett’s arrest that painted the football player as an illogical race-baiter. Niko House took issue with that and posted a social media response calling the video a lie, at which time one of them reached out to the other to propose a debate.
Sounds professional enough so far, right?
It started out professional enough too, with Christiansen welcoming House onto his program, and House saying some nice stuff about Christiansen. But within minutes, it started to get tense as they debated their differences on the Michael Bennett issue.
Par for the course though, right? Political debates get passionate. Everyone knows that.
But what should be less expected are the interruptions, condescension and utter lack of logic that proceeded from there, with House repeatedly accusing Christiansen of not letting him finish his point and Christiansen accusing House of not letting him get a word in edgewise.
In my opinion, Christiansen looked better than House, but he still didn’t look good. There’s very little chance that either man swayed anyone watching to change their opinions.
If I had gone into watching their political debate with the mindset that institutional racism was a factor in Michael Bennett’s arrest, I would have left it thinking that institutional racism was a factor in Michael Bennett’s arrest. And if I had thought that claim unsubstantiated, then I would have continued to think it unsubstantiated.
Being disrespectful during a debate is clearly not the best way to win friends and influence people. And I had lost some of my usually good opinion of Christiansen by the time I decided to give up on the hour-and-thirteen-minute video well before it finished.
Yet for whatever reason, I didn’t close out of it altogether. I skipped to the end.
As it turns out, an irritated House abruptly disconnects at the one-hour, 10-minute and 30-second mark, leaving Christiansen to finish up the video on his own.
Considering the tone of almost everything up to that point, I expected the host to start snipping – uninterrupted, this time – about how ridiculous House had been. But instead, he did something surprising.
I genuinely don’t know if House did too, but for his part, Christiansen manned up and admitted that it did not go well on either side. Yes, he did call his debate opponent rude, but he also labeled the whole back-and-forth “incoherent” and encouraged his followers to post their honest opinions below the video, including whether he should never do another debate ever again.”
And just like that, thanks to his apologetic attitude and expressions, my opinion about him went right back up.
Here’s the thing: Everyone has their bad days. Everyone has their bad debates or their obnoxious opponents who succeed in dragging them right down with them. But an admission of wrongdoing or poor behavior goes a very long way. In my case with Christiansen, it brings me right back to where I was post-debate.
I’ll continue watching his political commentary on YouTube, where I’ll like a lot of what he says and I’ll disagree with some of what he says.
In addition, I truly hope that the next time I find myself in a similar position – whether in those Innovative Editing videos I hope to one day make, my daily and weekly blog posts, my novels or my life in general – I follow Christiansen’s mature example in admitting where I fell short.
That’s how you really win friends and influence people: by admitting that you’re human.