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Why do we tell people off?!

I have a thousand pet peeves, but one that really fucking annoys me is being told off for no good reason.

Actually, seeing people telling other people off for no good reason is enough to get my nerves going.

Because telling someone off assumes that the culprit (because that’s exactly what it feels like to me) knew what they were doing was wrong.

And guess what? That isn’t always true.

Not everybody had the same upbringing than you (and this involves everything from money, to family structure, race, education, friends, health, religion, travel, gender… the list goes on) so it might just be that they didn’t know something wasn’t accepted.

Accepted being the key word.

Because it might be that what you see as your fundamental right of righteousness isn’t really that set in stone, and that if you just squeeze your eyes a little bit, you’ll see there might be more to some things than what was there at a first glance.

So get off your fucking high horse next time you so urgently feel like telling someone off… and ask them why instead.

Why did you do that?

Why do you say that?

Why do you think that way?

But do so only if you’re really genuinely interested.

Because otherwise, it might still sound patronising.

This is obviously much easier said than done, but it’s something I’ve found to be much more effective, especially if you’re in for the long run.

Telling someone off - suggesting they’re wrong, that their beliefs are invalid, that the way they act or think is not acceptable - will only put the person in the defensive. Even if they end up listening and agreeing with you, it might be with a slight resentment.

On the other hand, showing interest in people’s actions, words, thoughts, makes them open up - they’ll want to share, and, surprisingly, they’ll be more open to listening too.

Think about the last time you have a discussion - what is more effective: when people speak over another or when each (genuinely) listens to the other side?

That’s not to say I’m immune to speaking over people or occasionally reacting in ways other than calm and attentive (I’m Latin - I’m loud and effusive even when I’m calm & cool). But this isn’t about being a good friend, or giving feedback at work. It’s about being a little less obnoxious human. Be a little more open.

There are times when it will be fucking hard.

Do you know how hard it is to try to listen to someone when you hear they say ‘oh yeah, he’s pretty for a black man’ or ‘she’s so feminine for a lesbian, you wouldn’t know’ or ‘if those immigrants want to keep their culture, they shouldn’t have left their country’ or ‘I would never vote for a woman’?

Breath in. Breath out.

I’ve heard all of the above first hand.

It’s hard.

Man, sometimes it’s I-want-to-cry-out-loud hard.

I don’t know exactly know when I started caring so much.

Or why.

It’s fucking exhausting sometimes.

But you know what else is exhausting? Seeing people being intentionally mean to one another. Hurting one another, because they don’t see a common denominator - or because they can’t accept there doesn’t need to be one for them to live in peace.

So if I have the opportunity (and now maybe the skills) to get people to rethink their minds, then I will.

Because all I really want is a world where people are more kind, more understanding to one another.

Even if that means that sometimes you might have to ask me why I’m doing, saying or thinking something.

But don’t tell me off. I won’t listen.



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