I’ve used the phrase “it’s immaterial” many times, but it wasn’t until I started working in the accounting field that it took on a deeper meaning. Now, I deal with materiality often. When I now claim, “it’s immaterial,” I first consider whether or not whatever I’m considering is truly significant or not.
In accounting, materiality is specifically calculated, so the answer of whether or not a transaction is material is easy to determine. Is it above an amount or below the amount? The answer is simple, and the appropriate action or approach is taken.
In every day life, materiality might not be quite as easy to ascertain. Is something significant or relevant? Well, that depends a bit on perception. Quite honestly, we sometimes don’t have the insight to correctly value something. We can underplay or overplay the impact something has on us. We can verbally spar with a friend or family member, because the significance we place on something differs.
Disagreements on materiality can cause significant chasms. In those cases, whether or not the item in question is material becomes secondary. The fact conflict is caused by it pushes it over the line of materiality.
We live in an argumentative society. In general, we like to argue our points and establish our stance—whether we change people’s behaviors or simply gain affirmation. But there more at risk than being right. Relationships are at stake. If we’re not willing to talk things through with respect, we need to take a step back. If the materiality of a topic becomes more important than the materiality of a relationship, there’s a problem. Whether the relationship involves family, friends, coworkers, social media acquaintances, neighbors, or strangers, we need to set a standard of respect.
We need to listen.
We will not be able to impact and influence one another without listening. We will not be able to communicate compassion and generosity without listening. We will come across as defensive, proud, manipulative, and demanding.
I don’t think any of us wants that.
Widen your circles. Be humble.
Relationships and communication are material.