Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Keep your thoughts to yourself

Note: Yes, this is actually a draft i found in my email folder today, although it was written months ago. I never sent it, but it's still relevant, so here you go.

TJ asked some rather pertinent questions in one of her Stockholming posts; I originally wrote this as my comment, but I figured it's more of a rant and thus should be on my own blog, as I'm pretty sure she wasn't looking for a blow-by-blow account of what pisses me off.

Her questions were:

When someone makes a comment about your appearance – however well meaning – that makes you feel bad, how do you take it? Do you say something back? Do you take it to heart? Does it affect your mood? Does it matter who it is that says something, or in what context they say it? Do these exact wordings and circumstances stick with you for as long and as clearly as they do with me?

It's not that easy, though – what if the same person makes the same KIND of offhand comment in a POSITIVE way? Do you take it AS seriously as you would if they made an offhand negative comment? Does it make a difference who compliments come from? Assuming you could assign negative statements and positive statements a numerical value of negativeness or positiveness, would a 5 positive statement have as much of a positive impact you as a 5 negative statement would have a negative impact on you?

What I finally posted in the comments:

I find it really hard to accept compliments gracefully, but I'm trying to change that, because I think it's pretty rude to blow off a compliment; I think it belittles the other person. Comments of any kind carry a lot more weight for me coming from MadCat, or Moosquared, or someone else really close to me (excluding my family, but that's another story). I also don't pay much attention to what is said in the office, be it positive or negative. In fact, negative comments in the office are most likely to be greeted by an eye-roll or an unladylike snort.

In three years, MadCat has only ever said one negative thing about my appearance, and given that it was about my actual body (and not what I was wearing), it cut to the bone, even though he was trying to say it in a positive way to get me over the exercise hurdle. But yes, if negative comments were to come from him, or Moosquared, as the people whose opinion matters most, I would be crushed.

Compliments or criticism, it definitely affects my mood, which in turn affects my demeanour, and I remember what is said for a long time (particularly the negative). On the plus side, a compliment from either my friends, or a complete stranger, carries a +5 rating that boosts my mood for at least a day, maybe even longer.

And I do my best to compliment at least one person a day because I like making other people smile. It's my little contribution to a happier world.

The stuff I removed:
I find it really hard to accept compliments gracefully, but I'm trying to change that, because I think it's pretty rude to blow off a compliment; I think it belittles the other person. Comments of any kind carry a lot more weight for me coming from MadCat, or Moosquared, or someone else really close to me; on the other hand, I tend to simply ignore most things my family says (say?). My dad is unable to say anything nice without adding a sting to the tail, and my mom, while well-meaning, thinks only in terms of being a good Christian, so everything I do/wear/say is seen in that context. (Since I listen to metal and wear a lot of black, there is always a gently chiding tone to any comments on my appearance; since I am agnostic - although neither she nor anyone else in my family knows as, dear god, I could not handle the passive-aggressive 'quiet disappointment' and prayers for my eternal soul - the constant admonishments to better my secular interests and gentle reminders of the Christian I used to be as a child are just .)

Also, I really detest being told what to do (doesn't everyone?). So when my colleagues RAN from their desks to see me wearing a skirt for the first time in four years, tripping over themselves and shoving each other aside, actually SHRIEKING their excitement at me not wearing pants, I had to restrain myself from telling them to eff off and have refused to wear a skirt to the office since. Compliments are one thing, telling me that I should stop wearing black because I'm so much prettier in colour is guaranteed to send me on a Goth shopping spree.

Yes, indeed, I am a stubborn old git (or what was once known as "mule-headed". And I like it.)

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