131: Why we can’t have nice things

131: Why we can’t have nice things

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It’s common to hear me utter the phrase, “this is why we can’t have nice things” in a funny response to something someone did or said in our house. A few days ago I was talking with someone about things I see going on in the world, and I said, “this is why we can’t have nice things”.

But this time, I didn’t mean it as a joke.

Lately I’ve noticed many of the issues we experience when attempting to have a conversation (or relationship) with each other stem from two different categories: all or nothing thinking, and how we speak and listen.

All or nothing thinking

This refers to those times you’re in a conversation and you (or the other person) falls into the thinking that if it’s not this, then it’s totally that. Or because XYZ is true, it doesn’t matter what you said about ABC, and I’m going to ignore everything you said about ABC. For example:

— When I tell people they have control over their lives and to take responsibility for it, and people send me emails that talk nothing about that, and instead list all the things they don’t have control over—like the price of vegetables at the grocery store or the latest thing their governor wants to do.

— When I suggest “take care of yourself and be healthy”, and people assume I mean you have to be a size two and follow some specific diet and lift weights at the gym 10 times a week and can never again eat pie or smores or bake cookies.

— When I say, “choose what you’re going to be mad about” or “you don’t have time or energy to be mad about everything” or “you don’t have to participate in all this drama”, people assume I’m promoting absolute apathy, like I think we should all run off in the woods and build a hut and string some daisies together like everything is okay.

It’s almost become like you’re either marching in the streets with your fist raised, or you’re skipping around in the woods holding hands with all the animals like Snow White.

It’s almost as if the narrative is if you’re not for me or with me, you’re absolutely against me.

It’s almost as if the assumption now is if you don’t vigorously nod your head with what I’m saying, you must be against it 100%.

It’s as if there’s no middle ground. It’s 100% this and if it’s not, it’s obviously 100% the complete opposite.

How we speak and how we listen

The other part of “this is why we can’t have nice things” has to do with how we actually speak to each other and listen to what is said. In other words, we can’t have nice things because…

— We don’t listen to what is said, we listen to what we want to hear.

— We don’t listen to hear, we listen to respond.

–We share information not to help people, but to prove how much we know.

We don’t talk to people in order to discuss things, we talk to people to prove we are right or pull them over to “our side”.

— We quote and share articles without having even read them. Do you know how many times I’ve clicked on a link that someone has shared with me—with angry veins popping out of their neck—only to read the article… and find out the clickbait title isn’t even supported by what the article says?

— We toss around words without knowing what they actually mean. It’s like the quote from Princess Bride: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Like GMO or anarchy. People use them in regular conversation, applying definitions that are half true—or completely false. Sometimes we’re using the same words, but it’s almost as though we’re speaking different languages—considering the different things we expect those words to convey.

Let’s do better.

Maybe someday we can have nice things.

— Amy Dingmann, 4-7-21


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