We live in an interesting age. With the advent of social media, blogs, satirist news sites, online magazines, and other venues for expression there seems to be an explosion of “articles” that in reality are opinion pieces titled with (insert numeral here) things never to say to (insert specific demographic here). What I find most interesting is the absolute self grandeurization that comes from creating and sharing such a piece. I mean, blogging and writing have always had an egotistical element to them. You have to believe you have something to say worth hearing and I admit that most of the time when I write – I do. What I really mean by that is that these articles are usually created specifically for a small demographic group of which the creator is a member and they are written in a way that doesn’t really invite someone to try to understand what another is going through as much as commiserate with people who agree with them that others are so stupid, clueless, or cruel.
I will admit to reading quite a few of these lately. At first, I honestly wanted to know what I shouldn’t say to an unmarried female lumberjack or a childless clergy member who belongs to a support group, but I have since resigned myself to reading with the intent of scoffing at whatever that group decides to use as an excuse to make themselves feel superior. After all, the ultimate message of most of them is “You just don’t get it,” and the way I am told that I don’t get it ensures that I probably won’t make the effort to get it in the future.
I recently wrote a piece about how important it is to really put yourself in another’s shoes. I commented on how to do so we can’t just examine something through our own eyes and biases. We have to look from the perspective of someone who may be foreign to what we naturally understand. I believe in the need to understand the plight of others and to show compassion and thought in how we address people. What I find hard about the plethora of the “things not to say” articles is that they usually give orders with attitude while assuming EVERY unmarried mother of Irish descent who listens to Swedish music would be offended by the same stuff.
Maybe if we spent more time teaching our (society’s – not yours personally) children communication we wouldn’t need to tell people what not to say. If we taught people how to be aware of facial expressions, body language, or how to hear tension, stress, or joy in someone’s voice then maybe they would be able to figure out what not to say on their own. Maybe if we showed others what it’s like to be listened to rather than preached to, people would feel comfortable sharing their realities in prose or stories as opposed to lists of directives. Maybe we could even address the things people say that hurt our feelings personally in a kind way that educates them so they might think twice in the future! In the mean time, I’m avoiding all articles and blogs that are versions of the above. I try my best to listen to my friends and put myself in their position before I say something that might be offensive, but If I say something that offends you – do me a favor – just tell me kindly. No need to blog about it.