Bulverism

Anyone who has spent enough time in public positions sooner or later encounters people hostile to your cause. I’ve served in countless volunteer positions through the years and am constantly surprised when I encounter people who have assumed that some self serving or malicious intent sits behind the organization I direct. The fact of the matter is, we are all conditioned to see the worst in organizations (and individuals for that matter).

It’s hard when you work in a volunteer organization and need to recruit people to fill roles. Overcoming this ‘assumed bias/baggage’ can be challenging. I’ve learned through the years that people will judge actions (not words) but that not all of our actions are visible to others. If you don’t see it happen, it didn’t.

The worst case scenario is when you have to overcome another’s assumption that you are serving some nefarious purpose. I’m guilty without having done anything. My position in the past was to plead my case and try to influence others to believe the best of me. That simply doesn’t work. You have to demonstrate good intentions and avoid the debating your own character. Character can not be proven with words – only deeds.

I was pleased learn that there was a word for this. C.S. Lewis coined the term Bulverism in 1941. In his words:

assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became to be so silly.

It’s hard to casually use the word. It is hardly a common label, but being able to put a label on it helps me to overcome the challenge.