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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Stop giving shit, and start giving a shit!

It seems to be endemic to the Australian culture that we primarily relate to each other by way of reciprocal derision.  "Ribbing","winding up", "giving shit" it what you like, this is what we do with our mates when we're hanging out, with our colleagues at work, with our siblings...well, with just about everyone really.  And I'd like to point out what I've often thought should be blindingly obvious - we don't all have the same tolerance for it.

The not-so-friendly implication that goes along with this friendly joshing around is that if it starts to hurt, it's because you're weak, you've taken the other person "the wrong way" or are somehow at fault...but most certainly, you'd be totally out of bounds if you asked them to tone down or back off, or quite simply stop and show compassion or give reassurance.  Because needing any of the above makes you a pansy, right? Wrong.

Just like we've all got our own unique threshold for pain, physical strength and endurance, we've all got our own needs and tolerances with regard to the friendly ribbing.  Certainly, being "overly sensitive" is something that we need to take on primary responsibility for ourselves.  I know that I tend to be insecure, and have a fairly low threshold for people winding me up before it starts to hurt.  So, I do my best to remind myself that these are people who care about me, who are trying to have fun with me and to push through the pain a little and play along.  I also make sure when I do get to tolerance threshold and ask for them to stop and reassure me, I'm capable of owning my own reaction and not blaming it on others.  That's my part of taking responsibility - realising that the hurt caused in these interactions is almost always totally unintended.

However, what is incredibly frustrating is how often there is complete refusal from the other party to meet me in the middle - most often the reaction is one of "harden up or fuck off - this is what I do, just deal with it".

Because, too often, it goes like this:

Person A: Gives shit
Person B: Gets hurt and says "Ouch.  That hurt."
Person A: "Oh seriously?  COME ON, I WAS ONLY JOKING.  Jeeez.  Stop being so sensitive."

And Person B?  They're just hurt even more.  Why is Person A angry?  I suspect because they think B was implying that they intended to be nasty, that they were aiming to hurt someone else's feelings.  What if you just took B's statement on face value - intentionally or not, you've hurt their feelings.  If you'd accidently bumped into someone and hurt them, do you get angry at them for being hurt?  Do you assume that their "ouch" is saying "you bastard, how COULD you?".  More likely, you say "whoops", offer up a "sorry" and generally let them know you care that they got hurt.  Why can't we have the same reaction to the incidental wounding of others' feelings?

How is getting angry or frustrated with them going to make that situation any better?  Short answer: it won't.  Backing off and offering reassurance will.  And not only that - it's probably actually likely to increase that person's tolerance for the friendly ribbing from you over time, because they feel more secure in your underlying affection and care for them.

Sometimes it's time to stop giving shit...and show someone that you do give a shit.

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