sex, money, and miscellany: talking about what matters

say what you mean

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2009 at 10:30 am

Pet peeve: people who say one thing and mean another. Pet problem: trying to be nice, gracious, kind, and still tell the truth. I don’t want to be rude or overbearing; I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I DO want people to trust me, and in order to get there, they have to know that when I say yes I mean yes and when I say no, I mean that, too.

There was a committee meeting once where I said something nice about a group that had been struggling, and someone asked, “you’re not just saying that?” and someone else said, “She wouldn’t.” That was a huge compliment. I want people to trust my yes and trust my no.

We should all aspire to that. Not trusting each other’s clearly-stated truths, or, worse, saying something and expecting the people around us to re-interpret it to mean something different, is a primary factor in community messes. When a community goes into meltdown, nine times out of ten it could have been prevented by clear and direct communication. Not mean, not rude, not cruel, and not random criticism that is more about clearing out resentment than making constructive forward motion, but real let’s-work-together communication can save us.

These are skills more important than addition, subtraction, and literacy. Why are they not the primary curricula of our schools, the primary focus of our learning efforts as adults, the subject of continuing education classes? If we have constructed a society that trains us by subtle disapproval to shun clarity, then we must spend the rest of our lives unlearning that if we’re going to get anywhere. Game playing wastes energy that could otherwise be spend on curing diseases and world hunger. What are we doing? How can we as a culture be so arrogant as to think that our petty noncommunication and processing rituals are more important than the gifts we have to give the world?

If we could all learn good communication we would all find that being nice and being real aren’t at odds. In fact, it’s the easiest thing in the world.

  1. The idea of putting arrogance, petty, and processing in the same sentence worries me. People can be arrogant. People can be petty. Neither of these have to do with the process necessary to get through your stuff. You’ve mentioned “moving forward”. Moving forward is the end result of process, if you skip the process, you will not move forward. You will stay stuck. Don’t throw a wrench into the works because it’s hard. Because it might be painful. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. A good process? Leaves you worn out and raw. It leaves you .feeling. like you just ran a marathon, but you know that you earned every step you had to take to get to where you wanted to go.

    Moving forward can’t happen without the process. It can’t. And giving in the middle of it can happen sometimes and sometimes it can’t. That’s why people take sabbaticals, so they can recharge, do what they have to do, and get back to it.

    In art therapy we talk about process a lot. It’s the difference between Art as purely art, and art as therapy. If you don’t focus on the process, you’re focusing on the product. You sell a piece of art that you’ve focused on the product for. You .feel. the benefit of focusing on the process in art therapy.

    My worry is how much this outlook effects you, Sweet Leela. Process is painful, it keeps you awake at all hours, it gets worse sometimes, but you’ve got to get through it to get to the moving forward. The relief only comes after the work.

    • I think processing can be important. However, I think when we prioritize the ritual of processing, the habit of processing, processing for it’s own sake rather than processing to get through something, processing because we refused to communicate well in the first place instead of processing because there’s actually something there, then we’re in trouble. I think therapies of all kinds are useful and important, primarily because we have all this bad communication to fix.

      It’s not about skipping process. It’s about doing it appropriately and moving on. Especially in communities that develop a culture of processing, processing can be used as an excuse not to take action–we can be “not done processing” or “needing to be heard” forever. It can be manipulated and used as a way of holding the group back if one person disagrees with a decision. Process is important–when it’s appropriate. But it’s a tool. Once the nail is in, hammering away only dents the wood.

  2. “Why are they not the primary curricula of our schools, the primary focus of our learning efforts as adults, the subject of continuing education classes?”

    Because to do so would cause us to have to confront our systemic dysfunction, require us to cast off the old, comfortable, unhealthy ways of behaving and to begin to act like adults. It is why so many people are ignorant and obese: We don’t want to work at knowing things, and we don’t want to cut out the cheeseburgers and exercise more. We are culturally lazy, and it is sad.

  3. You had me until Obesity. Obesity .can. be from not wanting to cut those things out, but it’s much more complicated then that. If someone is clinically obese most likely food has been used as a comfort, and not only that but used as a mild anti depressant. Food causes your brain to release dopamine, which improves mood which is why people develop food addictions. So if you want to say depression and addiction are due to systematic dysfunction and not an internal issue of processes in the brain… it’s a good example.

    It’s more complicated. As are the reasons for therapy, most of the time it’s not just about communication issues, though a lot of times it is.

    Changing the way a person behaves .can. improve depression and obesity. It takes work. I wouldn’t say it’s laziness though, I would say it’s more so a sense of hopelessness that gets a person stuck.

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