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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Preventing Truth Decay

What’s wrong with the following statements (beside their being rude and disrespectful)?

     1.  “You are the worst slob in the world.  This room’s like a pig pen!”
     2.  “You think you’re so perfect.  I’ve never met anyone so 'better-than-thou'.”
     3.  “Why do you have to be like this?  Don’t you ever think?  Won’t you ever learn?”
     4.  “You’re always tripping over everything.  Why do you have to be so clumsy all the time?”
     5.  “I get no respect whatsoever.  All I’m good for is to do everyone’s dirty work.”


     The major problem with all of the above?  They simply can't pass the truth test.

     Take the first statement:  “...the worst slob in the world?”  Among the world’s seven billion people, can even your son, daughter, or spouse really be that outstanding?  And “...like a pig pen?”  Really?

     Statement two assumes that the speaker, like God, knows exactly what someone else is thinking and feeling (amazing mind reading ability), and the “I’ve never met anyone so...” is an obvious exaggeration, a judgmental statement for which there is clearly no rational basis.

     Number three represents a series of rhetorical barbs having nothing to do with what real questions are for, that is, to elicit information.  In reality, like most of our "Why" questions, they are poorly disguised put downs.

     In number four, the use of “always”, “everything” and “all the time” represent generalizations that are almost always untrue, and will only invite denial and defensiveness on the part of the hearer.

     And number five represents a self-pitying, self-put-down more likely intended to produce guilt  than to describe how the speaker really feels about him or herself.  And the phrases “no respect whatsoever,” “All I’m good for,”  and “everyone’s dirty work” are exaggerations and generalizations almost anyone can see through. 

     In short, there is no substitute for just offering good, unembellished, information-offering truth.  That means simply describing a situation, and our own feelings about it, as accurately as we can, using respectful, plain-spoken “I-messages” instead of finger-pointing “You-messages.”

     But wait, isn’t it the truth that hurts? 

     Not if spoken, as the the Good Book tells us, “in the spirit of love.”  What hurts are inaccurate distortions of the truth, statements that have little to do with letting someone know something (information), but a lot to do with letting someone have it (accusation).  There’s a big difference.
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