Be Yourself, But Be Reasonable

23 Apr

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.

I know.


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!)

35 Responses to “Be Yourself, But Be Reasonable”

  1. Angel April 23, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    Very good, made me laugh. I usually don’t take much offense to others opinions, but lately I’m getting my feelings hurt regularly. Sometimes people just need to shut up. 🙂

    • acleansurface April 23, 2011 at 11:52 am #

      I agree, Angel. There should be more silence. =)
      I usually don’t take much offense either, it only frustrates me when someone won’t acknowledge that their opinion is just their opinion, and not actually fact.

  2. bigsheepcommunications April 23, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Seems to me your son is a master of distraction. He didn’t want to move the controller, so he distracted you by deliberately confusing the whole conversation (clever boy). My 17 year old, honor student, eagle scout, smarter-than-both-his-parents-put-together son, looks at me like I’m speaking a long forgotten ancient language when I say, “you need to clean your room.”

    • acleansurface April 23, 2011 at 11:48 am #

      Oh, Big Sheep, if only….But, you see he did move the controller immediately. He enjoys being contrary and likes to have the last word. It’s a good thing he’s so cute!

  3. MissMeandI April 23, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    I absolutely LOVE this post! It expresses the way I feel totally. In my group of ppl, whenever one expresses their opinion about something, if it’s negative, (but nicely put) then one is automatically “hating” on whatever the opinion is about. It doesn’t make sense. If I don’t like something, and you do, as long as we respect each other’s opinions, we ought to be able to say that and have a reasonable discussion about it, without offending the other. But, too many ppl think that everyone has to think just like they do which leaves a lot of closed conversations and wary opinions of others.
    (That conversation with your son had me dying laughing!! LOL)

    • acleansurface April 23, 2011 at 11:54 am #

      Thanks, Miss Me. My son wears me down that way… he defies logic.

  4. l0ve0utl0ud April 23, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    Yes, I completely agree with you. There is a differnce between being honest and being rude. We can be honest without offending anyone, without offending someone’s customs or culture. In short, we can be ourselves whilst allowing others to be themselves, too, by respecting their opinions, even if we don’t agree with them.

  5. Deborah the Closet Monster April 23, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    All the dialogue in this entry made me giggle even as much of it made my head hurt. I actually just sent a link to a girlfriend I think might relate!

    I agree re: tactful responses. I tend to disagree a lot with others, so I’ve gotten a lot of practice honing my disagreement into the very affable sort. Sometimes I fall short and venture into did-I-just-say-that? territory. Sometimes I offer the gentlest disagreement only to find my face scorched in the flame-throwing aftermath.

    It’s always a learning experience, in any case! 😉

    • acleansurface April 23, 2011 at 11:58 am #

      Deborah, I know exactly what you mean by “did-I-just-say-that?” and the scorched face. We humans are so unpredictable.

  6. dlw April 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    You just “weren’t thinking 4th Dimensionally, Marty” 😉

  7. oldancestor April 23, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Being oneself is fine until you start bugging the crap out of everyone else in the process.

  8. Frankie Ortiz April 23, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    I had to read this one out loud so my boyfriend could hear it as well. We couldn’t help but literally laugh out loud since we deal with these types of conversations all the time, and we get so frustrated because they clearly don’t understand what we’re are trying to say and all we can think is…”are you even remotely attempting to focus on the words coming out of my mouth because I couldn’t possibly explain myself any clearer than this”. But it happens, and we absolutely agree, I strongly dislike when others agree with everything just to keep peace, if I ask you a question, I really want to know your opinion, but agreed, one should never be rude or condescending with the answer, there are very tactful ways of putting words together that provide the most honest opinion. I know when I receive this, I actually have more respect for them, than those who get defensive or just agree to agree.

    • acleansurface April 23, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

      I’m glad it made you laugh, Frankie. Having a blog allows me to record these bizarre conversations. Coincidentally, I just read one on another blog, about talking to the DMV.

      • Kristin April 24, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

        Hey hey! Thanks for reading my post and for the pingback! I appreciate it. It’s always interesting to hear someone else’s point of view on a topic. Plus, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks about these things 🙂

        I love your last line! It really is about being reasonable and kind. Oh, and verb tenses too, haha! I’ll be sure to check out your blog. Happy day!

      • acleansurface April 25, 2011 at 9:48 am #

        My pleasure, Kristin.

  9. Tammy McLeod April 25, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    As the mom of two middle schoolers, I so understood this post. And I’m a huge fan of engaging in civil discourse.

    • acleansurface April 25, 2011 at 9:45 am #

      The middle school mind is a scary thing, Tammy.

  10. grimaud50 April 26, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    Ha! My oldest daughter is only 4 so I can still win with logic and patience. I’m not looking forward to the middle school years. I’m sure there are benefits to having teenagers – I just can’t imagine what they would be.

    • acleansurface April 27, 2011 at 9:49 am #

      The sad thing, Grimaud50, is that teen syndrome starts at about age 10 now.

  11. pegoleg April 27, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    It seems we are almost incapable of remembering this simple rule when it comes to politics. We may have wildly different ideas of what’s best for the country, but why can’t we assume that the other person loves his/her country as much as we do, and respect their intentions, at least?

    I’m so sick of all the political hate-speech.

    • acleansurface April 27, 2011 at 9:42 am #

      Amen to that! In politics, in religion, and in parenting.

      • pegoleg April 29, 2011 at 11:27 am #

        By the way, my daughter just did a paper on the Sound of Music for a college music course. You are not alone.

      • acleansurface April 29, 2011 at 11:49 am #

        That sounds like it would be a fun paper to write, Peg!

  12. charlie nitric April 28, 2011 at 5:34 am #

    Good Morning –

    You said, “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.

    Sometimes people want to belittle us in order to prematurely elevate them to a higher level, falsely I might add. It sounds like the person who gave you the opinion of the class was jealous of you, or suffers from low self-esteem. You were simply their scapegoat in the moment for this person to try and feel better about their miserable life situation. Have a good Thursday. 🙂

    • acleansurface April 28, 2011 at 9:25 am #

      I am inclined to agree, Charlie Nitric. Thank you for visiting.

  13. Bee April 28, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    Tomorrow I will have liked this post very much, starting right this second.

    Also, call me crazy, but I kinda liked Maria’s dress that she wore from the convent to the Von Trapp’s house. I can see that the colors were rather plain for the day, but I always thought it was attractive in a simple sort of way. Still though, you can’t top her matter-of-fact delivery of that line: “Oh, the poor didn’t want this one.”

  14. njr711 April 29, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    First, Thank you for your thoughtful blog comment.
    Second, I enjoyed this post. Your son’s response reminds me so much of my own son. I literally laughed out loud.

    • acleansurface April 29, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

      Maybe it’s a boy thing, NJR711. Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  15. Mindy@FSL May 3, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Kids are another species sometimes. lol! They just process things differently that adults. I am a school teacher, and I have this thought at least twice a day.

    • acleansurface May 3, 2011 at 9:57 am #

      They definitely process things differently, Mindy! Thanks for visiting.

  16. anonnickus May 15, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    I just found this post now, somewhat later than fresh. It is certainly not yucky. Loved it.

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