Manners: Decisions

We have all had this conversation at some point in our lives:

  • Person A: I’m hungry. Lets eat.
  • Person B: Oh yeah. Where do you want to go?
  • Person A: I’m so hungry, I don’t care.
  • Person B: Ok. How about [This place]
  • Person A: Oh no, not [This place] I don’t feel like [their food]
  • Person B: Alright, where do you want to go?
  • Person A: I don’t really care.

How many of you knew by the third line where this conversation was going?  How many felt their butt clench with internal rage because we have been Person B too often in our lives?

So skipping over some of the fun conversations about healthy communication, boundaries and emotional labor here… let’s get right to the meat. Person A doesn’t want to have to make a decision but they want a vote in the decision that’s made.

This is terrible manners.

For the folks in the back:

This is TERRIBLE manners.

The why is that it is very disrespectful to PersonB (for sure).  They are trying to show kindness and compassion and they are shot down.  It hurts when this happens.  Sometimes it’s a dumb thing, but when this becomes a habit in a relationship it begins to crop up in more and more important conversations (not just romantic relationships – siblings, friends, and co-workers).

This is why my husband and I play what we call “the veto game.”  In this world, we both come into the situation knowing if we veto an idea (specifically when it comes to “solutions for a problem”) we are responsible for coming up with the alternative.  It completely changes the conversation (and associated emotions):

  • Person A: I’m hungry. Lets eat.
  • Person B: Oh yeah. Where do you want to go?
  • Person A: I’m so hungry, I don’t care.
  • Person B: Ok. How about [This place]
  • Person A: Oh no, not [This place] I don’t feel like [their food]
  • Person B: Alright, your turn. Where should we go then?
  • Person A: Hmmm. What about [Other Place]

Can you see the difference?  When PersonA takes the responsibility that they have shot down an idea it transfers to them – this conversation goes Very, Very (yes, those are capitalized!) differently.  The balance of power is equalized and respect to the first suggestion is not somehow dismissive (and this part I can’t full explain) even if the second choice gets veto’ed and Person B has to come up with a third option – the “value” of each suggestion is increased.

Alright, so we’ve all had this conversation about food.  I’m now going to sneak in two more examples that are far more “serious”

  • Person A: The car has a flat tire.
  • Person B: We should take it to [TirePlace]
  • Person A: The tire is already flat, we’d have to have it towed.
  • Person B: Ok. What do you think we should do?
  • Person A: I was hoping you had an idea.
  • Person B: Well, can we put on the doughnut?
  • Person A: I don’t have a doughnut.
  • Person B: Then I guess you’ll have to get it towed.
  • Person A: We can’t afford that.

Is anyone else feeling their butt clench again?

  • Person A: The car has a flat tire.
  • Person B: We should take it to [TirePlace]
  • Person A: The tire is already flat, we’d have to have it towed.
  • Person B: Ok. What do you think we should do?
  • Person A: I’m really worried how much that costs. Can I use the doughnut from your car?

Person A took a risk.  This might be the wrong size and Person B may not want to risk their own tires. They might not have doughnut (this is apparently a new trend where cars don’t have doughnuts?!?) between the two cars.  BUT – Person A is being an active participant.  They aren’t just passively saying “No. No. No.”  Can you see/feel the difference?  In one of them Person B is having to come up with all the solutions & options and …. they bear all the stress while Person A shoots them down over and over and over.

Manners is defined “as a way of doing, being done, or happening; mode of action, occurrence, etc.”  What way are you doing?  Because DOING is manners.  A mode of action, not passively shooting down others.

When you step into any argument where two people agree on a point (something is “broken”) but can’t agree on a solution; listen. Are both people putting forward options or does one side like to shoot down all the options because although they technically agree that they hate the status quo; the idea of “winning” or “being right” or “:proving the other guy wrong” is actually more important.  And then think about the last example. When the person finally can just ask for what they really want – that risk of rejection.  It takes courage. It takes courage to ask a girl out instead of claiming “friendzoned” and it takes courage to tell people you want to strip-mine their land.  You might get rejected.  But it’s still the right thing to do.

Manners: When Winners Lose

One of the reasons I do not particularly like competitive sports is “winners.” A turn of a foot, a play that is only successful one in eight times can win or lose a game. Yes, there is skill. And there is “will” to be the best. These help – but usually (not always, but all-to-often) when you come to things like “championships” they are (or should be!) close on skill and will. The best games are the ones where everyone is guessing who will win. They are fun to watch. They are tense to play.

The players who walk away from those games are disappointed. Man do I get that… that is an awful feeling. And the winners are elated. Who wouldn’t be? Especially for those massive games where it was close and no one knows who will walk out victorious.

You see, there are the winners who rub it in. They wear their badges of honor and wins and tell everyone how amazing they are. Their win was only impressive because they managed to eke one more goal or run or point than the other team. And sometimes it was luck more than skill.  It was combination of throwing, good shoes, no pebbles, and JUST the right angle. A hair in a different direction and the game could have been vastly different.

One of the skills that is rarely taught now (or doesn’t seem to be) is the concept of humility. Merriam-Webster’s definition for those who don’t speak English is:

the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble

Winning when you are much better at something than the other person isn’t fun. Just watch any adult playing tic-tac-toe with a toddler/very-small child. It isn’t fun to WIN against them because the odds aren’t even in the same realm.  The adult IS better than the child – they are older and wiser and lost tic-tac-toe a lot themselves before learning the tricks.

So when you win a tight “game” and you want to celebrate – start by thanking the other team/person. Thank them for pushing you to be your absolute best. Thank them for making that mountain damn hard. Thank them with all the sincerity that it was their loss and their battle which made your win so awesome. You weren’t playing against a toddler, you played against an equal.

This is the essence of humility.  This acknowledgement that no success is isolated and the greatest successes (think about the Manhattan project or the moon race) are when the opponents are stronger because of the other. Would we have made it to the moon in less than 10 years if USSR hadn’t been pushing us? I doubt it.  Look at how little distance the USA has gone since we lost that great rivalry to push us, challenge us, and encourage us.

Next time you win, look at who pushed you; who challenged you; and who helped you.  Thank them. Thank them all.

Manners: Kindergarten

You know that phrase “everything you need to know about life can be learned….” I’m a big fan of the answer “kindergarten”

Are you lonely and in need of a smile? Try sitting in a field of flowers and imagine the singing flowers from Alice in Wonderland (old Disney, not new Disney). Or coloring. Or asking for a hug.

If you see someone crying, go and sit beside them, hold their hand. You don’t have to say anything – just be there.

Are you nervous at a conference? Find your buddy!  Best plan – have a buddy before you show up and make sure you find your buddy! Your buddy will help you be safe.

Did you learn in Kindergarten NOT to cut in line? Next time you’re driving and you see a line of cars…

Are you in a public restroom?  Guess what – just like you were taught at school, you need to check and MAKE SURE you flushed it all. People run out like the TP is going to jump out of the bowl and attack them.  Like – you already USED the public toilet. It’s too late to hide from it, now be an adult and make sure it flushes. Some of them need an extra flush…

Are you stressed? Get some milk and cookies.  See how much you can dunk without it crumbling OR getting milk on your fingers.

Manners: NotAllMen

I can’t believe this is still a thing. I can’t believe there are still so damn many men who can’t get why #NotAllMen IS a problem.

Here’s the thing, women know not every man is dangerous. Women know that not every man is a rapist (intentionally or not is different post). Women know that there are some men who are our supporters, friends, advocates, and sometimes – yes we sometimes want this – our defenders.  I know I’ve explained what I call the Goethe spectrum when we meet strangers; but I think it’s really even easier to understand.

So a man sees a woman walking down the street and smiles at her and says hello.

The woman must make an instantaneous decision whether she is safe or not (Seriously, go read the Goethe link if you haven’t yet).  She might get it wrong. She might just be feeling anxious and this poor guy pings higher on the scale than he should.  Here is what the man should consider:

  1. She doesn’t know me. She had to make a split decision based on her own personal Goethe spectrum and I pinged high enough to merit a hasty retreat.
  2. IF I was actually a dangerous rapist/kidnapper/murderer she ignored, she just possibly saved her own life/sanity. Good for her!
  3. IF I am NOT actually a dangerous rapist/kidnapper/murderer what did she do that hurt me.

And really, just to question 3.  She didn’t say “hi” back. She ignored you.  Did she hurt you or your feelings?  If it’s the latter… well guess what, you need to put on your big-boy pants and deal.  I know for a fact that ignoring you did not cause you physical harm. Because here is what she is probably thinking:

Ok, so if I say hi back and he kidnaps me, is there anyone around? Well yeah, but by-stander effect will any of these people do anything? No clue. Ok. so if I don’t say hi, and he’s a perfectly nice guy I’ve missed out on a chance for a new friend.  New Friend or possible murderer? Possible love-of-my-life or possible next-twenty-years-in-his-basement. Possible bliss or possible torture. I’m not going to risk it! Gonna walk a little faster, get that group of people between me and him!

Ok, you’re right, MOST women probably don’t do this consciously. Only weirdos do. But I would lay donuts to dollars down that if you showed it to a woman she would nod and say it feels familiar even if it isn’t the exact wording she would process.

And it happens in an instant. 2-3 seconds. That time that you holding your breath in hope – she is running risk/reward analysis in her brain.

The next time one of your male friends tries to pull the “Not ALL men! Not me!” look at him and said, “Maybe not you. Not me. But someone. They exist and she doesn’t know if you are that one.”  And when he looks shocked and says, “It’s not fair, she’s not giving me a chance to prove i’m not!”  You can look him in the eye and say, “She’s not giving you the chance to prove you ARE.”

THAT is the champion we need.  We need our male friends/relatives to look at their #NotAllMen friends and say, “She’s not giving you the chance to prove you ARE.”

Manners: Is “if” a bad word?

This occurred to me only recently, but it is too true: If you have to use “if” to qualify something, it’s probably bad. IF gets used to cover up an insult or negative feedback instead of just having the spine to stand up to your own comment. Look at these examples:

  • If this had more salt, it would be delicious! (wait, so it’s not good?)
  • If you got contacts, we could see your pretty face. (wait, so glasses somehow “hide” facial features?)
  • If that shirt was just cut a little differently… (so it looks bad. I get it)
  • If we go to that restaurant, we might miss the movie (so the movie is your priority.)
  • If you want the blue one, get the blue one (why won’t you just tell me which one you recommend? I asked you!)

Even when it is referencing something good “If we buy this house, we can start our family” or “If we go on vacation, we can relax” it has this tinge of “If we don’t…”

I’m not saying people can’t use the word “if” – but I think we all know that the qualifier “if” means that the person speaking is trying to avoid hurting feelings or creating a hard stance. It gives wriggle room for the speaker to have a socially acceptable escape for their opinion.

I’ve been trying to come up with “positive” if statements and they elude me. So far, all I’ve found is “If so, you’re not alone” (you know – like every blog that is “you know that thing? Me too!”).  This has led me to try to watch my own use of if. Am I using in a way that I am setting unspoken conditions? Or am I using it as a rhetorical device (the only option I found that I couldn’t make negative)? The former I think I should reconsider; the latter? Well, rhetorical devices have a purpose but I’m not sure they are always a polite choice either.

Review: Rating System(s)

Netflix relatively recently changed from a 5-star rating skill to “thumbs up” and “thumbs down.”  I hate it.

And yes, I do mean “active dislike and will try to get this changed somehow” level of negative emotion.

I can’t stand polar rating systems.

I know, this is a level of nerd – hating something so inane as a rating system, but let me break it down a little bit.

This is how I rate using 5-stars:

  1. I hated this (probably didn’t even finish it). Never show me anything like this again.
  2. I dragged myself through it, but I will never willingly watch it again.
  3. It was Ok. It probably kept me entertained enough in my current mood – I might watch something like this again, but THIS was probably a one-time-watch.
  4. I enjoyed this. I think other friends of mine with similar taste would also like this.
  5. OMG. Everyone should watch this movie. And watch it again.

I don’t know if everyone else has ever thought this much about their rating systems – but I like getting recommended new things and I know my taste can be a little weird.  A simple “yes” or “no” doesn’t really cut it.

Netflix knows I like comedy specials.  Gabriel Iglesias gets 5 stars. But Jeff Foxworthy has gotten 4 and 1 stars (sometimes I find him funny, sometimes I don’t).  Jim Jeffries got a 3-star response.  It isn’t ALL comedy specials I like. It’s specific types of humor.  There is a swath of specials Netflix recommended that got 1- and 2-star responses. I don’t like humor that is cruel to people (sometimes not even when “punching up”)   It is not as simple as “yes yes yes” and “no no no”

There is a grey area of “hmmm” that this overly simplistic rating system just can’t capture. As the person who will receive suggestions based on these ratings – I want Netflix (or anyone else) to be able to do a good job and they can’t with this stupid system of “yes” or “no.”   I will end up leaving a LOT of things just un-rated because it isn’t enough “no” or enough “yes” – and Netflix will have no idea why.

I’ve wanted a streaming music service that would let me do this.  I have to switch radio stations regularly because i get…. bored is the wrong word. Distracted? I like a very wide variety of music – from A Capella gospel (Rockapella is one of my favorites) to M.I.A. over to …. oh pick.   I do care more about what is actually being sung than a lot of people I know, but that is why I would really like a rating system beyond “up” and “down.”

I can definitely give a thumbs down to their thumbing rating system.

Manners: Blessings

Today is Easter. A notable Christian holiday.  The important Christian holiday. I will hear a lot of “Hallelujah” and “blessings” today – both digitally on Facebook and from live people.

I don’t talk a lot about my faith. It is highly personal to me. I also have studied history – and I love church history. But it also breaks my heart.

The Church (when I capitalize like this, I mean the “organized, hierarchical groups” – NOT the church which is the “body of Christ”) has done a lot of harm over the centuries. That harm is still being committed today.  People don’t like to think they are doing wrong, but that is exactly what we are supposed to do.

I am fortunate that I am able to attend a Seder every year. The Haggadah is the story of the Exodus and a reminder to the Hebrew heritage (and Jewish faith) that they suffered in Egypt. This reminder is also a call (at least at the Seder I get to attend) to remember the orphans, remember the hungry & oppressed in every form.

It is powerful to me that this could be some of the language which Jesus himself used at his last Passover. I’ve been told that christian communion is an “abbreviated” Passover – but I think churches that never follow-up with a full-length Passover lose something in the translation. Like any abridgment, the nuances of the message get lost. And over time they have been forgotten.

How can we say we offer “each other” blessings in the faith of Christianity if we only bless those whom it’s easy to like and love? How can we offer blessings only to those who are already blessed with heath, wealth, & freedom?

Today especially, I feel a call to cast a blessing on those seeking refuge in my country – my safe and beautiful country. As the children were brought out of Europe in the 1930s, how could I do less for the children of Syria? I have called my US representatives before on this matter, but I think I will begin doing so more – keep up the conversation because I believe, that I can wish blessings on those who just look like me – I must seek blessings for those who need it the most.