Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Reasonable things requested unreasonably

Don't think there's much worse than having somebody ask for something reasonable in a bitchy way. If you say yes, you're a patsy and a pushover. If you say no, you're refusing to do something that's eminently reasonable -- even necessary.

If the request were made in a kind and appreciative way, it would be a pleasure to perform. If the request itself were unreasonable, it would be simple to say "No." But what do you do when it's neither?


Anonymous said...

I was just talking about this on Sunday with my friend, in a little different framework.


Person 1 is cutting an apple in the kitchen. Person 2 comes up, looks over Person 1's shoulder and proceeds to tell them that they are cutting the apple incorrectly, in an incredibly condescending manner.

The worst part is:

Instead of being happy about having been provided with an alternative approach to apple cutting to weigh and consider for improved performance, instead, Person 1 is forever plagued with the mental dilemma of, "When I cut this apple differently, am I acquiescing to Person 2's assertion regarding my inferiority, or am I cutting it because it truly is a better method. SUCKS....

sadunkal said...

These are ego issues. Cultural conditionings, domination structures etc. contribute to it. Ignoring the ego thing, the source of the problem is the potential intention behind Person 1's "bitchiness" and Person 2's need to be respected/appreciated etc.

The question that matters most is; why Person 1 is being bitchy about it..? Is it an attempt to dominate? If yes, why do they feel the need to dominate another person? I'd say under that lies either personal insecurities or general (perhaps more subtle) insecurities forced upon individuals (Person 1 in this case) due to the societal domination structures.

In military for example the roles are pretty clear: There are certain rules for who dominates whom etc. So someone who can't stand being treated as a lesser human being would have a hard time in military I guess.

Military is a highly artificial construct though. If the issue is more about a true personal need to dominate another human then this person just might not know how he/she is supposed be recognized, get respect, feel good about himself/herself etc. without dominating others. Maybe all he/she needs is also some appreciation/empathy/attention etc.

I'm mostly relying on what I learned from Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication techniques when I'm speculating like this. And the ultimate solution in this situation would be an effective NVC-like communication between the two persons I guess.

I think both of you would like NVC actually, independent from this topic:

Rosenberg on Nonviolent Communication ~ NVC

Nonviolent Communication Part 1 Marshall Rosenberg

Marshall Rosenberg NVC Role Play

I personally think that it's one of the greatest inventions ever, and would recommend the books and all that.

ungtss said...

Sadun -- that's an extremely valuable insight. You've made my world better.

It seems like it's easier to sacrifice ego outside the family -- in work and social situations. Much harder to surrender ego within the family -- where these issues seem to gain greatly in significance. Any thoughts on that?

sadunkal said...

Makes sense to me. You'd want to be able to fully be yourself when you're around the people who are closest to you, whereas you readily accept that people won't care all that much about you at work. All our lives we're educated to live according to the rules of the power game. It feels natural, we can fit in without too much effort. But outside the game, in the "real" world, we don't want to put up with that kind of nonsense I guess.

It's cool if my words helped somehow. Just putting into use what I learned from NVC. :) It did make my world better too, and will continue to do so if more people learn to use it efficiently.

ungtss said...

i think that's probably right ... we have lower expectations out in the real world, recognizing that sacrifices must be made to achieve our ends ... but not so in the family.

i've been on the other end of this often ... wondering why those in my family sometimes treat me worse than they treat those outside ...

But on this end, it seems only natural. "I get treated like that all day. I don't want to be treated like that at home."

I wonder how much is too much to demand from our more intimate relationships.

sadunkal said...

All demands are generally considered nasty in NVC, and demands are defined as requests where the other person is in one way or the other (through inducing guilt, shame, punishment etc.) made to feel bad about himself/herself, IF he/she doesn't fulfill the "request". And the person who makes the demand eventually pays for making them feel badly too, somehow, which is why you'd want to avoid it.

A request on the other hand is defined as an act where the person who makes the request shows complete understanding and respect to the other person's decision, e.g. if he refuses to fulfill the request. There is no punishment involved no matter what happens and the connection isn't damaged.

With that out of the way, expectation is a much better word. And I'd claim that our expectations outside the home should increase, instead of lowering the ones at home. Because my ideal world would be a place where everyone at least tries to understand and connect with all the other humans around him/her. But we have a very long way to go to reach that point, and it might even be impossible, so it's a bit irrelevant.

I guess the level of your expectations is parallel to how much you value the intimacy of your relationship with the other person. You may not give a shit about your relationship with your neighbor's son but you'd want to connect to your own child (and family in general) in the most fulfilling way possible, I guess... Simply because you care about them.

So I'd personally rather aim for increasing the quality of the connection, through empathy, honesty, understanding etc. in the relationship, without really setting any concrete limits to "how much". At some point you'll be content with it I suppose.

ungtss said...

Generally agree ...

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks for the book recommendation, Sadun. Looks like I have some reading to do!

Light Storm said...

I'm new to this, how do I email ungtss privately?

ungtss said...

Light storm -- thanks for the comment, and i look forward to talking with you. I'm right in the middle of litigating a case right now, so i'm not able to communicate right away. I'll drop you a note on this page as soon as the case is over -- a couple of days max.

Light Storm said...

I look forward to it, thanks :)

ungtss said...

ah ... done and on with life.