Thursday, May 27, 2021

Trust Mah Benevolence!

This happens all the time.

You start to ask someone to PLEASE not say a word of....

....and already they're nodding in assurance, waving you off. Gotcha. 'Nuff said. I won't breathe a word.

"Won't breathe a word of what?" I ask. I haven't actually explained what mustn't be repeated, or to whom. And that strikes me as a rather essential chunk.

Confused and interrupted, the person stares blankly. This isn't how this script is supposed to go.

"I just won't....say a word! About anything! To anyone! Ever!" they think, dopily, knowing better than to speak it out loud. "You want me to not do the bad thing, and I'd never do that! I'm a good thing doer!"

"But having cut me off before I could explain what the thing actually is, how could you possibly oblige?” I ask wordlessly via my perturbed scowl.

"I don't need to hear," they continue, silently, with increasing distress. "I'm virtuous! Whatever it is, I would never in a million years do it! Blanket statement! Total coverage! Don't worry, I'm safe because I'm a GOOD PERSON! You can TRUST ME!"

No, I obviously can't. Good people listen closely, paying careful attention to the request, and let it sink in before agreeing sincerely. People who cut you off before you've even made the request (>75% of people will do this) have no intention of following through. In fact, those are the Bad People (as any writer of quality fiction will tell you, every villain feels righteous). They've clearly marked themselves.

Good people listen up at such moments, because they know they might otherwise go the wrong way. They are good people because they know there's always a choice, and it’s precarious, and they earnestly strive to choose right. Bad people pay scant attention, because their presumption of virtue trumps any need to actually behave virtuously.

Meanwhile, I'm an impolite asshole for taking a PERFECTLY NORMAL exchange and dragging it in a whole other direction, creating friction and discomfort for people being kind enough to take the trouble of signalling their totally totally benign intentions. Signalling benevolence is a precious gift of respect and kinship, and I've rudely ignored this gift, making these people feel bad just when they're taking pains to soothe and placate me with extra-sincere benevolence theater. Shameful behavior!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We are not always taught to listen for understanding. Sometimes people also internalize hurts. Instead of recognizing the moment of listening, they react. Anxiety drives a lot of interrupting and misunderstanding.

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