An image of a book titled '12 Rules for Life' by Jordan Peterson.

THE JORDAN PETERSON DEBATE

“Who is he?” She presses a pointer finger to the crumpled image of a stern, grey man on the tabloid page.
“Jordan Peterson.”
“How do you know who he is?”

If you’ve been on the internet for more than a few minutes, then you’ve likely heard the name Jordan Peterson. In the self-development community he’s a figure who has been heralded for his influential style of delivery and his persuasive speaking style. Jordan Peterson is a man with seemingly unflinching confidence, in a world where unflinching confidence is fast becoming unpopular and politically incorrect. But there’s a problem.

“What is he known for? What does he do?”
Perhaps you, too, have struggled to answer this question on Jordan Peterson. His Wikipedia page boasts an impressive background and current engagement as a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology. But what he is known for is likely something different. Jordan Peterson has something of a reputation for being outspoken, for discussing issues which people would often rather push away and ignore. It’s perhaps this confrontation of difficult topics which makes him known, or perhaps his lack of concern in offending or upsetting people while doing so.

“Do you like him?”
Many of us are divided in our view of Jordan Peterson- he’s the kind of person who pulls out emotions or thoughts in us which are divisive in one way or another. But it’s possible to be on the fence about him, and even about some of his more extreme viewpoints or controversial arguments. It’s possible to dislike his views, but to respect the assurance with which he delivers those views to an audience. It’s even impressive to watch him break down his arguments in interviews and to build productive discussions with others.

The targets of Jordan Peterson’s arguments, though, are less impressive- in many cases he’s busy tackling old ideas, fighting against unthreatening targets and objectively unimportant matters- and, though Peterson believes in his arguments, it seems that he has missed a crucial element of self-development and psychology: if the target of your argument is weaker than you, then winning or gaining success from your argument was not a challenge, nor does it make you strong. Peterson is controversial, sure, but he’s no Ben Shapiro. Perhaps we can learn about constructing arguments and crafting a confident speaking style from Jordan Peterson, but it would be wise for us to use this confidence of argument for better endeavours- be it to motivate, coach others, or to lead in our profession.

Jordan Peterson will remain heralded by some, hated by others. To remain on the fence about the Peterson problem is to have perspective on all sides, to see his flaws, and to respect the impressive belief and delivery in his views. At the heart of this whole discussion, is to respect others, and to welcome a variety of views and perspectives- to utilise the positives that we learn from them.

What are your views on Jordan Peterson’s discussions, and on his place in the field of self-development?

Featured image: Avery Evans via Unsplash.

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