When Civility Goes So Does Conversation

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk recently announced his intention to move Tesla’s headquarters from California to Texas. When asked if it had anything to do with an article, “Tesla Moved its HQ to Texas Following Explicit Offer from California Assemblywoman,” his response was, “Exactly.”

Lorena Gonzalez, the assemblywoman in question, tweeted “F*ck Elon Musk,” on May 9, 2020. I doubt the decision to uproot a business as large as Tesla was based solely on a tweet, but the tweet certainly didn’t help. What’s sad is, Musk’s company is helping people who want to combat climate change and Gonzalez is an environmental attorney. Talk about letting your emotions get the best of you and ruining a good thing for your state and constituents! A self-inflicted wound for sure.

Do We Want This?

The bigger issue than the location of Tesla is this; do we really want politicians telling business owners and people they might disagree with to “f*ck off”? It used to be that people in certain positions understood the need to act like adults and show restraint even when others may not.

I understand the emotions that she might have felt. We’ve all felt anger. I’ve been so angry at times that I felt like throttling people on Twitter. In fact, I wrote about that years ago in a post I called “Once Upon A Time – A Good Twitter Lesson.” Someone did something that really made me angry. However, I went against my initial emotional reaction and not only resolved a situation, I made a friend in the process. Believe me, that was far more satisfying than spewing an angry tirade.

Another Example

This issue isn’t limited to one side of the aisle. It was disgraceful when Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla) verbally berated Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building in July 2020. Yoho, a self-professing Roman Catholic, called her a, “F*cking B*tch.” Fortunately, Yoho is no longer in Congress and cannot claim to represent anyone.

I chose not to respond to either of these situations – Yoho or Gonzalez – on Twitter because, in my opinion, the platform has become too toxic for conversation. However, I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts in this article because we need to start talking about this negative trend. It doesn’t serve anyone well except perhaps those who want to sow discord.


One of my favorite quotes comes from Viktor Frankl, the Nazi concentration survivor, who wrote, “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Another way to look at this comes from Tim Kight, founder of Focus 3. He regularly talks about E+R=O. That is, events plus response equals outcome. We can control events but our response to events can influence outcomes.

Restoring civility and respect starts with each of us. Until we do that we won’t have conversation, only shouting matches.

Brian Ahearn, CPCU, CTM, CPT, CMCT

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An authorTEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only a dozen people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller in several categories. His next book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, will be available by year-end.

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 400,000 people around the world.

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