Sunday, November 15, 2015

When People Hard to Respect Are Demanding Even More

I was once out socializing (don’t judge me) in which one specific gentlemen became totally trashed. I was stone-cold sober. Our fellow tablemates got up to leave, meeting us at another activity. I saw them walk out, then told my friend I would drive him.

As we left, he said to me, “Call M.”


“You need to call M. She’s pissed. She and C are fighting,” he insisted.

I hadn’t seen these two tablemates arguing, but I believed there was a possibility I missed something.

“About what?”

“Just call M!”

“And say what?

“They got into an argument!”

“We’re going to see them in two minutes.”

He stared me in the eye, a complete, an almost comical severity in his expression. “Call M.”

“And say what?!”

I gave him my phone, telling him to call her if it was so important. He stared at it for a moment, then refused, saying he didn’t know how to work it.

“I’m not calling her. We’re seeing her in two seconds.”

“I don’t understand why you don’t just trust me!”

Really? Because, for starters, you’re drunk off your ass and I’m not. We are having to dividing opinions what we saw, and not only does it seem reasonable for me to trust my eyes first, it’s especially expected giving the circumstance.

He wanted me to believe him over myself, ignoring our vastly different states, make me take action without explaining what exactly it was I should do. He demanded I respected his reality more than he was respecting me. Yes, he was drunk. We assume that inhibits your logic, but is that really why someone wouldn’t reconsider their stance? Would someone sober always realize the context in which the person their speaking to is considering?

And no, she wasn't mad. She had no idea what I was talking about. By the time he got there, he'd forgotten too.

I work very hard to be open-minded and respectful (in the ways I think a person should be). Sometimes I fail (completely), but for the most part, when a person approaches me with his opinion, I spend a lot of time figuring out where he's coming from, why he believes what he believes, and determining flaws in his conclusions or differences in our priorities before deciding if his opinion doesn't work for me, rather than just going with my immediate reaction. I can be prideful and lazy, and so I make a lot of effort to determine the difference between my gut and my ego before making a decision. My gut has been good to me, and it's not fair to completely write off my instincts just because my pride poses as him on occasion.

Sometimes, I don't have the time to understand before I make a choice. Sometimes I take the time, but I just can't figure it out. In these cases, I will always trust my own perception first. It makes sense, especially if I know nothing about the speaker. Even more so when I was already struggling to have any faith in you in the first place.

Because some people are harder than others. I still do it when a writer doesn't oblige me the same courtesy; I believe that being open-minded is about listening to closed-minded people. But it seems like people misinterpret my choice to hear them out as an agreement that their opinion is law, and they should continue to tell me what to do. While I’m struggling not to insult them back, they, blissfully unaware that I am offering them the same amount of respect I would anyone, not because they are especially inspiring, feel encouraged to give me their opinion without any argument or proof as to why I should take it. I just should.

For months a man would post comments on my jokes and anecdotes how I wrote was wrong (even though he'd never read anything I'd written, and I wasn't even discussing writing philosophies.) I know he was trying to be friendly, unaware how he was coming off. One day, while informing me how I should work on a short story, he sent me his unpolished, unpublished piece as an example, which seemed to not do anything that he was telling me it should.

An online friend, for who I incorrectly believed English was his second language, gave me pedantic, archaic, and sometimes untrue grammar criticism on Facebook statuses, telling me that correct grammar on social media how he made his writing so good, showing me his overly written, formal poetry.

The other day someone interrupted me in the middle of a story to tell me that it's "So-and-so and I" not "So-and-so and me," and when I explained that you still use "me" when it's the object of a sentence whether or there is also another "object" ("My mom gave gifts to me," not "My mom gave gifts to I," so it's "My mom gave gifts to Kyle and me."), he grew furious, telling me not to be such a Grammar Nazi.

I found a woman in my old writers' group to be arrogant and condescending (especially to her readers). I didn't agree with most things she said. Because I knew I was biased against her opinion (I wanted her to be wrong), I spent an extra effort to analyze her feedback and make sure that I actually didn't agree instead of writing her off. At one point, she gave me some criticism that contradicted what other readers had told me. When I clarified to her what they said, she insisted they were idiots and I should just trust her. "You can't believe everything you hear." She didn't seem to realize that if I was just going to throw out anyone's advice, it would have been hers. I was trying so hard to consider her opinion, which I felt was restrictive, simplistic, and shallow.

Someone posted on the question, "How many books do you publish a year?" bitching about other authors' decisions to produce a lot, how they had to suck, and how he had worked on his manuscript for ten years, it was picked up by a traditional publisher, and it deserved to exist; "Does yours?" If you have to self-publish, he said, then it's probably not good enough. On his book, he had a homemade cover, a typo in the summary, and two weeks later, after complaining about selling only four books and insisting he'd never write the sequel, his publishers stole his royalties, he bought back his rights, and ended up self-publishing.

If I had to ask writers to do one thing, it would be to understand that your voice is only one of the many that your fellow authors are getting. Know that your perspective isn't always obvious, and don't grow upset when someone doesn't inherently trust you and wants you to further your explanation. Understand that if they are listening to you, it's because they're trying to hear you out, not that they don't have an ego. And don't think that, by listening, they're necessarily agreeing, that you're necessarily saying some great truth. Many times it’s something cliché and hackneyed, and that just makes it harder to not just reply, “You need to write more.” It makes sense for a writer to believe in the reality he sees first, and for those of us who have been writing thousands and thousands of pages for many, many years, it can be incredibly insulting for someone to come up and start pushing their opinion without considering ours. Before saying you someone else is wrong, keep in mind that they are probably making the effort to not just write you off, and that it's possible they think you are wrong, but believe in giving you the benefit of the doubt rather than pushing their agenda. They are setting aside their ego to consider an outsider’s perspective.

And please, for the love of God, do not insult me, give me your writing as example of greatness, and expect me not to feel pissed that I can't go, "Yeah, but that sucks." Don't give me a reason to be a bitch, I'm already trying hard not to.

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