Author Topic: Magic Words  (Read 11838 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

artk2002

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 13165
    • The Delian's Commonwealth
Magic Words
« on: April 10, 2013, 04:41:30 PM »
This isn't a situation or a question (so please, no "what's the etiquette question here?" posts), but some thoughts that I've had for a while that I think bear putting into a summary post and discussing.

We frequently (as in just about 2-3 every day) get posts that can be boiled down to this:

"I have an unreasonable person in my life who does something that I don't like. If I assert myself they'll get upset and up the ante making me and the people around us uncomfortable. What polite words can I say that will get them to change their behavior?"

What the poster means by "polite" is really "won't set the other person off." The sad truth is that those magic words don't exist. If the person were reasonable, then there wouldn't be an issue. Polite words would work fine. With unreasonable people, we're not so lucky.

The only choices are to remain silent and put up with the bad behavior to keep the peace, or assert oneself and put up with the fall out. Although we encourage people to stand up for themselves, neither choice is wrong in-and-of itself. They're only right or wrong for the specific context. I've chosen both ways in different situations. Asking yourself "Is this the hill I want to die on?" is part of the process of making that choice.  That said, I have a strong preference for asserting oneself, for a couple of reasons: First off, if things are going to be uncomfortable whichever choice you make, why not be true to yourself? There's great satisfaction in knowing that you stood up for yourself, even if it brings some discomfort. Second, there's a chance for change. If you say nothing, change will never happen. If you do say something, it's possible that the bad behavior will stop, eventually. Search for threads where "polite spine" has been effective -- there are lots of them.

If you choose to assert yourself, there are a few "dos" and "don't" that should be observed. Don't JADE -- Justify, Argue, Defend or Explain. Explanations and justifications are great with reasonable people. With unreasonable people, they're just an opportunity to negotiate. You get into exchanges like this: "I can't drive you cross country tomorrow because I'm having a hangnail removed." "You can reschedule your appointment." "No, I can't, it's taken 8 months for the health service to get this scheduled." "Aw, don't you care about meeeeeeeeeeee? We can leave right after your hangnail removal -- you'll just have to drive faster!" That kind of conversation is endless -- I've heard it likened to trying to squeeze a water balloon. Every time you push on one side, it bulges out on another.

Do keep calm and try to keep emotion out of it, even if you're hurting. Accusatory words will only put the other person on the defensive. The "I message" is a very good technique: "I <feeling> when you <unwanted action>; please <desired action>". That won't necessarily get the other person to change, but it has the best chance. Saying "no" or "stop" or whatever isn't rude in and of itself. It can be done rudely or politely. "Please stop <x>" is polite. "Lay off, you sheep-bothering, mouth-breathing moron" is not, no matter how satisfactory it might feel.

One thing to remember: Just because someone else gets upset, it doesn't mean that you've done anything wrong. It's always a good idea to do some self-assessment, but don't end up taking responsibility for other people's feelings. If you do something and it sets someone off, ask yourself "If I did that same thing with other people, would they go off, too?" If the answer is "yes," then you need to change your behavior. If the answer is "no," then the issue is the other person's, not yours. When in doubt, come here and ask; we'll set you straight! Please don't take this as if I were saying that you should ignore the feelings of others, but you should be careful about whose opinions and feelings you care about; it's very context-dependent. You should care what your boss thinks about your job performance, but don't need to care what s/he thinks about how you relate to your spouse. Your mother-in-law can care about how you treat her and (to an extent) your spouse; she doesn't get to care about how you do your job. The stranger at the bus stop? They don't get a vote at all. I know that it hurts when a stranger comments on weight, or parenting or appearance or anything, but you have to ask yourself "why do I care what that person feels?" Make sure that when you're looking for the magic words, you're looking for the right reasons. Don't waste your time trying to placate someone whose opinion, in the long run, shouldn't matter at all.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

TootsNYC

  • A Pillar of the Forum
  • *****
  • Posts: 31765
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2013, 04:55:34 PM »
Quote
One thing to remember: Just because someone else gets upset, it doesn't mean that you've done anything wrong. It's always a good idea to do some self-assessment, but don't end up taking responsibility for other people's feelings. If you do something and it sets someone off, ask yourself "If I did that same thing with other people, would they go off, too?" If the answer is "yes," then you need to change your behavior. If the answer is "no," then the issue is the other person's, not yours.

You've said this many times, and I applaud mentally every time you do.

Adn I love the underlined as a way to gauge, "who's the unreasonable one?"

artk2002

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 13165
    • The Delian's Commonwealth
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2013, 05:01:37 PM »
Thanks!  ;D
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

camlan

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8781
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2013, 05:02:42 PM »
Totally, totally agree.

So many people use getting upset as a way of controlling those around them. Leaving people with the choice to always knuckle under or risk the temper tantrum.

Once I started letting the temper tantrums roll, my life became happier, because I was doing what I wanted, and not bowing to the wishes of others.

It took a good 15 years after moving away from home for me to realize that *I* was not making my father upset; he was making himself upset. My actions were perfectly normal. I behaved the same way I did at home as I did elsewhere. Only at home was there yelling and fist pounding and sulking.

I have to say this. When you've grown up being told that you are the cause of someone's temper tantrums and sulks, it can take years until you realize that other people like you. That you don't have to constantly apologize, or worry about their feelings before yours, or brace yourself for being yelled at.

But once you reach that point, when you know you aren't doing anything wrong, and you do what you want and let the temper tantrums fall where they may, it is a very freeing feeling.

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


*inviteseller

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1821
  • I am Queen Mommy
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2013, 05:06:33 PM »
Thank you for your wise words.  I am a pretty strong, opinionated woman, but there were certain people I just rolled over for.  I started standing up for myself (politely, except one small incident :-[) and it amazed me how angry these people got at me when I quit being their doormat.  I have learned that if I stand up for myself and someone gets all whiny or throws a fit instead of saying "I'm sorry for offending", then I just walk away because any further conversation will just be a round and round argument.  The only people with magic words are the people who go through life being polite, trying not to offend but apologizing when they may.   

WillyNilly

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 7490
  • Mmmmm, food
    • The World as I Taste It
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2013, 05:10:50 PM »
There is only one "magic word" I know of, and I was quizzed on it plenty as a kid:

"now Willy, what's the magic word?"
"May I please have a cookie?"

 ;D

jpcher

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8767
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2013, 06:47:21 PM »
Okay! We can shut down the forum now. Artk has succinctly answered everybody's questions in one fell swoop! >:D  ;D


Seriously, artk -- your post was very well written. If people are prone to print out or save poems, adages, words of advice, etc. so that they can once in a while refer to written words for reminders, then your post should be amongst their files.

I know I put it in my "reminders" folder.


Don't waste your time trying to placate someone whose opinion, in the long run, shouldn't matter at all.

I'm big on trying to please everyone all of the time. It is definitely a hardship on my soul . . . Shouldn't I have done this differently? What if I did that instead? Most of these thoughts are about people that really don't have any influence in my life.

It's the little things that trips me up.


Thanks, artk2002, for your well-written reminder.

JeseC

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 339
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2013, 07:52:54 PM »
Quote
One thing to remember: Just because someone else gets upset, it doesn't mean that you've done anything wrong. It's always a good idea to do some self-assessment, but don't end up taking responsibility for other people's feelings. If you do something and it sets someone off, ask yourself "If I did that same thing with other people, would they go off, too?" If the answer is "yes," then you need to change your behavior. If the answer is "no," then the issue is the other person's, not yours.

You've said this many times, and I applaud mentally every time you do.

Adn I love the underlined as a way to gauge, "who's the unreasonable one?"

It's probably worth it to make sure the someone used for comparison is not a member of the same group as the original person!  Bad behavior patterns can often run in groups - especially within families.

(And yes, I do know that my relationship with my mother is probably a lovely example of this.  I'm trying to walk a delicate balance between asserting myself enough to not be driven crazy, and keeping the peace for the sake of my elderly grandparents.  It doesn't always work very well.)

Possum

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 269
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2013, 08:49:42 PM »
There is only one "magic word" I know of, and I was quizzed on it plenty as a kid:

"now Willy, what's the magic word?"
"May I please have a cookie?"

 ;D
In high school, at the start of the year, when we asked for something, our Physics teacher would ask us what the magic word was.  We, of course, said "Please," and he said that was wrong, but he'd help us anyway.  It became clear that he was a laid back guy, liked to joke, and that he had some crazy "magic word" we needed to figure out.  It took a few days, but we finally discovered his magic word was "NOW!"  Not "Now?"  Not "Now, please."  But a resounding, "NOW!"  :D

He was super fun, and let us do that all year long.  And of course, he still responded to "Please." :D

GratefulMaria

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 585
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2013, 11:36:16 PM »
Some of the best advice I've gotten here has been "agree to disagree" phrasing.  It's such a relief to have civil ways to say it doesn't matter to me what someone else thinks or likes about a decision that's mine to make.  I don't feel as though I've sold out, and I don't use my tongue as a weapon on somebody needy and insecure -- truly magic.

sammycat

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6215
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2013, 02:28:37 AM »
One thing to remember: Just because someone else gets upset, it doesn't mean that you've done anything wrong. It's always a good idea to do some self-assessment, but don't end up taking responsibility for other people's feelings. If you do something and it sets someone off, ask yourself "If I did that same thing with other people, would they go off, too?" If the answer is "yes," then you need to change your behavior. If the answer is "no," then the issue is the other person's, not yours.

Very true.

When DS was young, we were part of a playgroup that included Jack. To put it bluntly (and nicely), Jack was (and still is) a little snot, but for some reason I tended to think my DS was at fault a lot of the time.  My sister came along a few times and one day pointed out that Jack was reacting abnormally to a normal set of circumstance (and not just in relation to my DS, but the other group kids as well). 

Once I realised/acknowledged that I was able to stop reacting negatively to what was very normal behavior by DS (and the other kids) and let Jack stew in his own juices over the way he was behaving. It was very liberating.

TurtleDove

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6284
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2013, 07:36:08 AM »
I know that it hurts when a stranger comments on weight, or parenting or appearance or anything, but you have to ask yourself "why do I care what that person feels?" Make sure that when you're looking for the magic words, you're looking for the right reasons. Don't waste your time trying to placate someone whose opinion, in the long run, shouldn't matter at all.

Great post, especially this. When I am criticized, I will consider what was said, but unless there is some reason I should value the other person's opinion over my own, I can easily take ownership of what I believe and behave accordingly.

I also suggest being "blissful and stupid," which means to blissfully assume that other people are not out to get you, even if it seems clear they are looking for a fight.  If they truly are not out to get you, then you haven't wasted time worrying about it. And if they ARE out to get you, letting them see it didn't work allows you to win.

scotcat60

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 491
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2013, 08:34:08 AM »
"now Willy, what's the magic word?"
"

Er...Abracadabra?

TootsNYC

  • A Pillar of the Forum
  • *****
  • Posts: 31765
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2013, 08:40:25 AM »
 
Some of the best advice I've gotten here has been "agree to disagree" phrasing.  It's such a relief to have civil ways to say it doesn't matter to me what someone else thinks or likes about a decision that's mine to make.  I don't feel as though I've sold out, and I don't use my tongue as a weapon on somebody needy and insecure -- truly magic.
This is important as well.

It's important to stop trying to get other people to *agree* with you. They're entitled to have a different opinion; to want something different in the situation or relationship.

This does not mean you are obligated to provide them with what they want.

But you *ARE* obligated to stop trying to force them to accommodate YOU.

Just  let them be them. And you be you.
And don't worry that you disagree. It's fine. Just move on.


Then there's the "Charlie Brown adults" thing--they can say all they way to you about what they think you should do, feel, etc. You don't have to DO anything about it. Just let them blabber on, like the adults in those films: "wah wah wah, wah-wah-wah."

And I love, love "blissful and stupid." ("blissfully stupid"?)

Winterlight

  • On the internet, no one can tell you're a dog- arf.
  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 10014
Re: Magic Words
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2013, 11:02:41 AM »
"now Willy, what's the magic word?"
"

Er...Abracadabra?

"Accio cookie!"
If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
Caroline Lake Ingalls