(Un)Intentional Conversations

I wrote this in August, 2017, but somehow never posted it. Communication can be awkward no matter if it is in person, printed on paper, or through (un)social media.

We communicate with one another for different social purposes: to gain information, pass the time, promote a bond, be polite, express feelings, convince, and more. Each of these interactions has its own level of attentiveness. Sometimes a person is waiting to speak, or in a hurry, or trying to curry favor. And within the attentiveness there is intention and mistake, or unintentional communication. Words are important. When someone is asleep at the word switch, though, things can get unpleasant and people can become offended.

Little is said about social awkwardness, the unintentional slight. Even paying a compliment can be a slight, like "Wow, I've never seen you look so good" can also imply the person has been looking bad all along. It seems harsh to call that an aggressive statement, when that is an example of awkward wording. 

"In what way?" or "What did you mean?" can always be asked of the person. But sometimes we can be too stunned to react. For example, years ago I talked with a woman who complained about being broke, and she said, "Well, I don't have Jewish parents." Right there I should have asked her to explain what she meant, which would have called her out on it, and made her put her prejudicial thoughts into words. I knew that she was implying one thing (a stereotype that all Jews have money) and assuming another (that I would understand what she meant and agree). Assumptions, are often the root of bad communication. If you can be mindful of your assumptions you have a chance to make the world a more pleasant place.

It seems to me that certain people are oblivious or even happy that they are insulting others in order to prove a point when they believe they are right.  That's not working.


Helen Howes said…
My Lovely Man is dying. Several times a day people ask (who have mostly been told) "Is he feeling better?" It makes me angry, and sad that so little attention is paid. I sent out a big newsletter saying that he was in the last part of his life, but that I would still be working (I do want to eat), then got back dozens of "sad you are giving up, is he recovered?" emails..
Alisa said…
Dear Helen,
I'm so sorry people are not listening. This must be terribly hard. I hope you have something that gives you strength or a little comfort.
My thoughts are with you.
dinahmow said…
I know I have been guilty of words, unedited, falling out of my mouth, but never as an intended slur.

Courtesy seems, for the most part, to be missing in modern conversations and the abrasive and abusive language now so common from world leaders does not help.

Alisa said…
dinahmow—I used to kick myself every night for a "mistake" I was sure I had made in the day, but we do our best. At least some of us try to. And, you're right; I hope we vote for some better and more courteous leaders.