Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Things to say "no" to: other people's feelings

I was discussing passive-aggressive behaviour yesterday and said that the way out of it was to be bluntly aggressive and say "no" more often. One of the big reasons we end up saying "yes" to things we don't want to do is because we worry about the effect it would have on other people's feelings if we refused.

Repeat after me: "I don't care about your feelings."

That may sound like the sort of thing a real jerk would say. It isn't. In any case, it rarely or never needs to be said out loud. It's useful to say to yourself though as it will help you keep focused on what you should be focused on. And that is actual behaviour. It's either acceptable or it isn't. Other people's feelings, on the other hand, are their responsibility alone.

They tell you about their feelings for a number of bad reasons. They tell you because the advice columns tell them not to criticize others' actions but instead tell people how they feel about them. "When you do X it mades me feel ... ." Why is that wrong? It's wrong for two reasons. It's wrong because talking about your feelings will lead others to take you less seriously. If they agree to stop doing X because of your feelings they will begin to see you as a tender little flower who needs to be protected. It's also wrong because there is no necessary connection between a particular feeling and the actions it is responding to. Or, to put it another way, "I feel threatened" does not mean "you threatened me". I might simply be over-reacting.

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