suck it, polite

August 10, 2012 | 57 Comments

awesomehair

When I was in grade 8, I went for a haircut and a friend called to ask how it turned out. “I love it! it’s great!” I shared. When I got off the phone my mom told me it was impolite to be so boastful about one’s appearance. I was raised to be obnoxiously polite, often sacrificing truth for niceties.

“Sure you can have the last chicken wing. (Even though I was about to reach for it.)”

“Yes, I’ll drive you home. (Even though I never go that way and I don’t feel like it.)”

“Absolutely, we can see that movie. (Even though it holds zero interest for me.)”

The problem with all of this (seemingly) harmless lying is, I assume you’re all doing it, too. I’ve stopped trusting people’s words and developed a habit of Jedi mind-reading situations where TELEPATHIC INSIGHT INTO WHAT’S REALLY BEING THINKED AND FEELED might be required.

You say:

“I’ll help you pack.”

I deduce:

“PLEASE GOD DON’T TAKE ME UP ON THAT.”

You say:

“You’re beautiful.”

I deduce:

“You’re not hideous.”

You say:

“You’re funny.”

I deduce:

“You scare me.”

You say:

“Dinner is on me!”

I deduce:

“You’re an asshole who didn’t think of paying first.”

A special kind of crazy, right. What started out (seemingly) harmless, has become over-the-top dysfunctional.

My own “white lies” make it hard to believe anything kind and good thrown my way. That leaving party I was invited to–I EMAILED TO CHECK IF MY INVITATION WAS A MISTAKE. Seriously, Shannon: relax.

The mental energy it costs to consider all possible angles is ridiculous. Olympic-level brain gymnastics. In the desert. Wearing wool spandex.

I remember talking to a friend about this. She said her reason for trying to infer was for fear of being made the fool. Looking silly for believing something untrue. Being a burden. I can relate. But… fuck it, man. If I’m going to lead you to believe I want to give you a ride when I don’t, I’m the asshole, not you.

I want to retire from speaking things equivalent to a messed up rubik’s cube, and I’m done riddling-out your words. If you ask me out, I’m going to trust you want me there. If you invite my kid for a sleepover and offer to keep her until supper the next day, I’m going to believe it’s because you enjoy her. If I offer you a ride home, I want you to trust I’m cool driving you, because the times I’m not, I’ll say so.

This isn’t going to be easy; I’m a Blue. If you know anything about Colours (one of many personality inventories), you know blues hate to be hurt and hate to hurt (but moreso the BEING hurt). It’s all about feelings and intimacy and connecting and belonging. (Anyone reading who knows me is having a good chuckle at the depth of this truth.) The thought of having my feelings hurt is so debilitating that I project that same stunted thinking onto you. As if not sharing your taste in movies or being booked when you spontaneously want to hang is SOUL CRUSHING.

“Your beliefs about your stupidity and brokeness run so deep that I don’t even relate and I feel pretty broken.” This was part of a friend’s recent text message to me. The truth of it whipped around my amygdala like sperm in a petri dish. Being acutely aware of my brokeness makes me dizzy. I don’t want to be broken. And I don’t think I need to be.

I have to be in constant pursuit of health; it’s not one of my natural states.

I sent a new friend a text today: “Let’s start this friendship off right: No guessing. Just mean what we say and trust the other to do the same. If one of us slips up, THE OTHER IS NOT RESPONSIBLE TO TELEPATHICALLY KNOW. Yay for safe places.” She’s game.

I want to be a safe place. I want to say what I mean and worry less about hurt feelings. I want to be okay with being hurt and hurting for for the sake of authenticity. I want to surround myself with people I trust do the same.

I’m 37. It’s time to grow up.

Also: in the above picture MY HAIR HAPPENS TO BE FUCKING FANTASTIC. Suck it, polite.


“I have learned that I would rather be maladroit, or even rude, than dishonest.” Lying by Sam Harris

“Lying is, almsot by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship. ” Lying by Sam Harris

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  • Tara

    I knew this was what you were going to write about after our conversation. You were so passionate about it. I have to admit it sounds so incredibly freeing. Especially in the workplace…. I can’t stop thinking about it.

    • Shannon

      I’m hoping it’s life-changing!

  • N

    So happy you loved that book and I smiled and laughed throughout this post.

    • Shannon

      Thanks for saying so!

  • N

    And it’s so true: I definitely don’t want you projecting all those fears onto me. I want to be believed when I say things. I don’t want someone to try to read my mind. I think we’ve been good on this front but I may not know for sure, right?

    Your hair is awesome there. I loved it blond and love that photo.

    • Shannon

      No. I know: no one wants me projecting. I think we’ve been good, yes. xo

  • Kimbooly

    I do totally get the point of your post about honesty, and smiled as I read this. I recently heard someone bring up this need to be brutally honest with each other. (which I get; both my husband and my current bff are people I love because I know they aren’t going to give me BS; they’ll tell me if my outfit isn’t flattering or if I blew it) One person’s opinion was the same as yours, while the other person actually said, “Well, if I ask you how I look, or how something flatters me, lie to me if you don’t like it!” Some people want you to tell them what they want to hear; others just don’t want to sit and analyze all the possible angles, like possible accidental offenses (as opposed to the glaring offenses we hint about with sledgehammers). ;) I once asked my hubby a question about something or other, and he responded, “Do you want to hear validation, or my opinion?” I loved his honesty right there.

    While I tend on the polite side, I also like to be very real. True story: my bff always cracked up that I didn’t like the way she dressed. I never liked things she wore, so I would say things like “Melissa, your hands look pretty today,” or “Cute socks,” ignoring the vinyl blue-checkered table-cloth she was wearing*, or other things that I thought were crazy. She totally knew what I meant because we knew each other’s tastes and also realized they were superficial and not the stuff of our friendship. She had her own ways of ribbing me as well. : )

    BUT. I just want to point out that some of the sentences you pointed out above are not all simply lies. They are comments made based on the dance we do with people. For example, if I really care about someone else, I’m not lying when I say, “Sure, I’ll go to that movie with you,” even though I have zero interest. Being with that person and the fact that the movie was important to them is what brings me satisfaction.

    If I say, “Hey, dinner is on me,” even though a part of me inwardly cringes at the cost, it’s not because I’m lying that I don’t want to pay for dinner. It’s because I want to “treat” my guests more than I want to balance my checkbook at that time. I’m willing to make the social statement of picking up the check for the symbol that I value my friends/family more than my money, even if I really wouldn’t want to do so just by itself. It depends on who I’m with and what my intentions are.

    It depends on what our intentions are. If I say “Sure, you can have that last chicken wing,” but am thinking, “Seriously? Have you not noticed that it was your fourth one and that I’ve only had 2?,” THEN I’m lying. But if I’m thinking, “You know what? I was about to reach for it, but hey, it’s only food, and it will be better if I don’t take more, even though I did really want it,” then I’m not lying, I’m being the type of polite that is a generosity of sacrifice against my own selfish nature.

    I do think there’s a difference.

    • Shannon

      Hey Kim, thanks for checking in and responding!

      For SURE there’s a difference, but I’m talking about the times with what I’m feeling doesn’t line up with what I’m saying. I’m cool with watching movies I don’t really want to see. I like people more than I like doing what I want to do. I still desire to be honest that the movie isn’t my number one choice, but my company is. I more often than not don’t really want that last chicken wing even though I was reaching for it, but sometimes I do, and it’s gotta be okay to say that. I love picking up the cheque, too, but every so often I know I’m doing it or someone else is doing it BECAUSE of the dance, and they’d really rather not for whatever reason. THAT’S when I wish we’d have the courage to say, I can’t today.

      I start out with the best intentions and great enthusiasm, but feeling like I have to keep that up for the sake of “the dance” is when I start to feel exhausted and fake. Those are the moments I want to be more attune to, and have the courage to be honest.

      Make sense?

  • Shannon

    Hey Kim, thanks for checking in and responding!

    For SURE there’s a difference, but I’m talking about the times with what I’m feeling doesn’t line up with what I’m saying. I’m cool with watching movies I don’t really want to see. I like people more than I like doing what I want to do. I still desire to be honest that the movie isn’t my number one choice, but my company is. I more often than not don’t really want that last chicken wing even though I was reaching for it, but sometimes I do, and it’s gotta be okay to say that. I love picking up the cheque, too, but every so often I know I’m doing it or someone else is doing it BECAUSE of the dance, and they’d really rather not for whatever reason. THAT’S when I wish we’d have the courage to say, I can’t today.

    I start out with the best intentions and great enthusiasm, but feeling like I have to keep that up for the sake of “the dance” is when I start to feel exhausted and fake. Those are the moments I want to be more attune to, and have the courage to be honest.

    Make sense?

  • Kimbooly

    Yes, perfect sense.

    The following sentence sounds like a good indicator of recognizing when “politenesses” turn into lying: “. . .feeling like I have to keep that up for the sake of “the dance” is when I start to feel exhausted and fake.”

    I’ve definitely been guilty of polite lying.

    I can see how people can end up associated phrases like the above with lying, and it’s not the phrases themselves that are the lie, it’s the intent (as you concede, that there is a difference).

    • Shannon

      Kim, sorry I didn’t respond. I wasn’t getting notification of comments for a day or two. Have you read Sam Harris’ book (it’s more of an essay), Lying? It’s actually really amazing. I highly recommend it. It lit a fire under me to get serious about paying close attention to what I say to line it up with what I mean, vs. what I think people want/need to hear. If you do read it, let me know; I’d love to hear your thoughts. It was free from Amazon for a bit; maybe it still is!

  • http://www.elainealec.com Elaine M. Alec

    You are awesome Shannon. I just love how open you are and you always make me smile. I was raised the same way, but I don’t lie when I tell you how great you look :)

    • Shannon

      Thanks, Elaine! “I am honest and worthy, fighting the war on shame with my open, vulnerable, playful spirit.” It’s what I doooo. Love you, friend. xo

      • http://hellofisher.com Steve

        I love this phrase Shannon. It _is_ what you do.

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