After reading a thought provoking blog post from Backstage Spotlight, called “Be Yourself, But Don’t Disagree with Me” regarding that elusive balance of honest expression and conversational harmony, I was inspired to extend the topic in my own way.
My idea is that you should Be Yourself, But Be Reasonable. I honestly don’t care if you disagree with me or not, just be tactful and make some sense, for pity’s sake!
Last night I had a conversation with one of my kids that made me want to bang my head against a wall.
I saw a game controller tipped at the edge of the counter, like a car with one wheel over a cliff, and when I alerted him to the problem, the conversation went something like this…
That controller looks like it’s going to fall.
No, it didn’t.
No, it didn’t.
I didn’t say that it did, I said it looked like it was going to.
Yeah, I know.
I don’t understand.
It didn’t fall.
(Pause) I heard you. I am saying that I don’t understand, because your response didn’t make sense.
Yes, it did. I said it didn’t fall.
No, what I mean is that I was talking about the future, but you were talking about the past, so it didn’t make sense.
What you just said doesn’t make sense.
Umm…I was… The future and the past are different.
He will be in middle school next year. Teachers, consider yourself warned!
Seriously, I want my kids to be themselves, and to feel comfortable talking to me — I want everyone to feel that way. The tricky part is that I want the same in return.
We all have different interests and perspectives and personalities. We have different opinions, too. For example, Backstage Spotlight used an example conversation about The Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but I don’t have very strong feelings about those movies, so I am going to use The Sound of Music for my own examples. I have seen that film more times than I have seen any other film.
You don’t have to agree with me. You don’t need to like The Sound of Music just because I do. Go ahead, express yourself. Just be reasonable and polite about it — and, please, get your verbs straight.
If I say that I like The Sound of Music and you say that you don’t like musicals, I understand your opinion. If you say it is an endlessly boring and stupid movie, well, then I understand that you are rude, but hey, at least you are honest.
If I say that I like The Sound of Music and you say that you like it too, then you are probably a woman. If you say that you like doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles, then I know that you have probably seen the film as many times as I have.
If I say that I like The Sound of Music and you say “No, it didn’t“, then I understand that you and my kid should get together and play video games, because neither one of you makes any sense.
One of the biggest arguments I have ever had with anyone started up after I spent time gushing about a college class I was really enjoying at the time, and about all that I was learning from the class. The person to whom I was speaking responded (essentially) by giving the opinion that classes similar to the one I spoke about were worthless, stupid, and a waste of time.
Now, this was, I thought, a clear and personal insult, given the fact that I had just expressed my enthusiasm for the class. I took offense.
I would submit that a better response would have been something like, “I wouldn’t be interested in a class like that. I just don’t think I would get anything out of it. I would rather take a class about —–.” To me, that is still an honest response, just a more polite one; it is a response that supports communication instead of ending it.
In any case, I think we can be ourselves and have our own opinions and still get along. All we need to do is to be tactful and reasonable, and know the difference between past and future verb tenses.
(with thanks to Backstage Spotlight for the inspiration!)