Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Little Secret Notebook of Rude Remarks

After work a few days ago, as I was scrolling through the million blogs in my RSS reader, I wondered whether someday I might regret having spent so much time simply reading a ton of blogs. But then I realized that -- even if I don't get as much done as I'd like -- I do get a lot of stuff done, and that I need to spend a certain amount of time doing something that is simply pleasant and relaxing.

Then, more recently, I caught myself wasting time and energy on something that I really do regret wasting time and energy on: getting upset and stewing over some rude remarks that someone spontaneously decided to email me. If it were just some random person on the Internet, it would be easy to simply laugh it off. But not so much when it's someone I, unfortunately, have to deal with in real life.

My rational side says to me If she thinks it's a good idea to send people messages like that, it's her problem and not mine. And no matter how tempting it would be to respond in kind -- no matter how clever my rude retort would be! -- my rational side keeps saying don't do it! That would only make. it. worse. Simply avoid this person and stop worrying about it.

But not thinking about something is easier said than done.

Fortunately -- as with stress-induced insomnia -- this problem has a simple and relatively effective cure. (Recall that for insomnia, the trick is to get an mp3 player and listen to foreign language lessons.) For this one, it's: write it down. Get a paper or a little notebook and write down all the reasons why that person is totally wrong. In the wrong already before she contacted me, and doubly wrong to compound it by adding insult to injury, making it impossible to have a rational discussion about the situation.

Interestingly, it works a lot like the "pensive". (More wisdom from Harry Potter!) Somehow my brain gets the message that all my points are carefully stored on a paper somewhere, hence it doesn't need to keep forcing me to involuntarily review them. And soon it really does become just another funny story. Her problem, not mine.

2 comments:

Cognitive Dissenter said...

I used to get sucked into that whole tit for tat waste of time ... and occasionally still do (Note to self: Don't drink while responding to hateful comments).

I finally realized that people who are rude get off on the reaction. When we ignore them completely it frustrates the hell out of them. They don't want to have a meaningful, respectful, substantive debate. They want to piss us off. Moreover, they MUST win; and in their world, win=have the last stupid word.

Trying to have a rational conversation with such people requires us to assume they are rational, kinda like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey CD!!!

That is so true!!

I've been meaning to write a post specifically about Internet debating, and one of my main points is the importance of not needing to get in the last word. When people keep repeating the same arguments and/or insist on repeatedly misrepresenting what you said, you actually allow them to obscure the issue if you follow them down the rabbit hole of trying to clarify until they "get" your point. In such cases, they're not trying to get your point, they're trying to derail you, so why let them?