Laboring under misapprehensions

Countless occasions have come and passed without getting proper attention. They arise, things transpire, and yet we are missing some things… there are fundamental understandings. Frequently people make basic assumptions about shared knowledge or experience between us. They think they have fully assessed a situation and all of its ramifications. For whatever reason people believe they know how to correctly interpret the motivations of others. Largely things happen and move on because they are fine, and of course technically it all turns out in the end.

The trouble with too many assumptions and heavy conjecture on our part, is an overwhelming lack of evidence that is more than just a few seeds of doubt. Too often by far people take something and run with it, despite the fact that they’re wrong. They’ve miscalculated somewhere, be it people’s intentions, or their plans for the future, someone’s background or what they value.

As much as we all must at some point decide, and move on with our own actions regardless, our initial assessment should not stand alone if we have the opportunity to confirm it. Treating someone as if we know for sure what they mean, or how they feel is pretty presumptuous. Regardless of how much communication you have engaged in before, this time could very well be different. And if you confirm all the suspicions you had built up to now, there’s certainly no harm in gaining some surety of it.

It’s actually quite often we’ve gotten something wrong in the course of a series of happenings. Things move quickly, with lots of moving pieces, and it’s hard to keep track of everything. People forget, misconstrue or jump to conclusions. Perhaps we missed part, heard wrong, or simply didn’t understand one another. Giving others the benefit of the doubt should be our default bare minimum of courtesy.

Asking a few clarifying questions is the best way to go, but sometimes that still leads to strife. People often assume that type of question to mean we don’t agree with their assertion, or that we’re questioning their right to assert it.  The unfortunate part about that is the fact that it tends to come from a little shame around what they’ve been saying or doing. People can’t stand getting caught and would rather get away with everything. Putting a fine point on exactly what they said can be really uncomfortable. But if they said or did it in the first place, shouldn’t it bear repeating so we can all be clear?

Why wouldn’t people clarify before not just assuming the worst, but acting on that feeling as if it were true? A few simple questions or reflective statements to assure we’re on the same page goes quite a long way towards mutual understanding. But I think that’s where I can get caught up sometimes, because I always come into communication wanting to make sure we all understand each other. It seems to me now, less and less a priority for people in conversation. They instead are just waiting for others to finish so they can get on with proclaiming what they feel.

They don’t want to make sure and be thorough or complete, they want to throw caution to the wind at every turn. They think they are understood and that they understand already, they basically think that this entire talk was unnecessary. And I sit back trying to find a way to clue them in to the conversation before them. Because if we already understood each other so well, nobody would be sitting here saying all this stuff.

It’s not just that these little misunderstandings occur, because alone they’re not that terrifying. But laboring under misapprehensions can quickly escalate to affecting more important things. Making decisions like whether or not to stay with a partner, get a pet or have a baby… nothing of real value or consequence should be clouded by misunderstanding. No one should have to go on living with problems that could be resolved with a good dose of honesty.

I’ve watched people live their lives, year after year, going on information that’s incomplete or just plain wrong. It’s like watching Wuthering Heights play out before me, knowing it’s all just a case of someone who misconstrued something or someone, like a child’s game of “telephone”. I can’t fathom why they would continue to suffer and labor without doing anything to ease their discomfort. Especially if you’re unhappy with something someone said or did to you in particular.

We have all seen people feel so much better when what’s bothering them gets worked out and they get resolution. Anyone who would avoid achieving that greatness is being ruled by insecurity or fear, I would bet. I hope folks can find a way to see that feeling hurt for years is way worse than the alternative. An uncomfortable afternoon or even full week it might take to find closure with some direct action is entirely worth it. It’s also fundamentally more respectful of others and ourselves in this process.






Ethics – Geek Out on The New Morality

Move over Andy, there’s a new sherriff in town. Right and wrong have been turned upside down in modern culture, and people are using it in different ways than before. When we look at morality in culture, we can first agree that those waters are plenty muddy, whether we’re talking about the definitions of right, wrong, and morality, or their applications in our lives. I may circle back around to it, but I do want to acknowledge at the outset that most people have flexible morals that shift and change, especially when they feel cornered or challenged. Although it’s always been done, lately, it seems more common for people to use morality to back up what they’re doing, or what they’re espousing, rather than guide those things along.

Of the major modern changes in moral trends, there is an overarching theme I believe I’ve found. It’s pervasive in media and is being strongly reinforced there, as well as online. The basic concept is that there is a style of morality that is thought to be “evolved” or “advanced”, and the major feature it sports is deviation from consistency. It has been called “postconventional morality”, although few people are achieving that, so I’ll continue to use my “new morality” term to describe what I believe people are actually doing. The new morality is using personal judgment to override existing moral constraints – largely in the name of eschewing outdated cultural norms that are restrictive or oppressive.

What’s important to realize is that this scenario is full of assumptions. The main ones being that the initial moral code we’re describing is religious in nature, or otherwise equally rooted in cultural practices that were established generations ago. As much as I’d like to separate morality from culture, it’s pretty ingrained. So many folks assume that morality supports social constructs like misogyny and discrimination. The assumptions are too many to number here… but suffice it to say morality is currently seen as a sort social extortion mechanism.

When we realize those connections, it’s easier to understand why folks want to step outside of morality – it’s a concept seen as the backbone of social control. People do use morality to back up what they’re saying or doing, and as such we shouldn’t blame morality for the failings of culture. That said, the moral code we abide by should be altered or reimagined, rather than just avoided or circumvented. That’s because morality has always been the basis for those judgment calls we make so often, and if we don’t have a moral compass, people fall back on physiological desires and fears to guide them instead. More importantly, the concept of having a moral code is to help us collectively drive a conceptual image of how we can improve ourselves and the world around us, it’s our ability to behave beyond instinct.

Much of the stress around morality could be resolved if more people could realize that their problem is not with morality as a concept. Their problem is with it being used as a tool – be it by religions, organizations or individuals. What folks need to realize is that there are various sets of moral and ethical codes worth considering and using in our daily lives to help direct our intentions and actions toward greater good. No one has to reinvent this wheel, they just have to discover that their upbringing had limited their understanding that wheels come in all shapes and sizes, and that there are vehicles we could choose that better suit our needs.

That better vehicle is ethics. Morals and ethics may seem to be overlapping, but the difference lies in the basis or reasoning.

From Kant to Kohlberg, the idea of extending our actions to a universal model is not new. This vision helps us determine if something is appropriate based on whether or not the behavior would be sustainable if all people behaved that way, or if we each behaved that way all the time. It’s a great way to determine if something should be done or not. I see it in opposition to what has been called territorial ethics, which focuses on consequences, and whether or not a consequence impedes on the territory of another. That’s basically the “no harm no foul” idea, which may be great in a pick-up b-ball game… but if no one is in the forest to hear it, the falling tree still does make a sound, and that sound is loud.

To say that consequences should be the only determining factor in morality is a misunderstanding of the foundations of morality as a concept. Focusing on whether or not negative consequences have arisen due to an action at that time is nothing but subjectivity to power games and robs the individual of genuine free will to choose right actions based on their merit. It replaces that genuine morality with a system of external punishment and reward rather than cultivating an internal capability to determine appropriate courses of action. The fact that an action didn’t spur negative consequences at this time does not mean that it could not, or that it will not, or that it makes it right anyway. That mentality is just a defense mechanism to support irresponsible behavior and is used by people who want to do inappropriate things and rely on external forces to moderate their behavior rather than control their own decisions in a respectful way.

Without a strong sense of morality, people are having a harder time achieving compassion and respect for others too, and part of that is because their new moral code is based on the individual experience (dubbed territorial ethics by Celia Green), rather than being based on what’s good for the group (dubbed tribal ethics by the same). And when the new morality so severely deviates away from the greater good, it gets farther from right and wrong and closer to a tool for manipulation – which was the complaint that drove people away from morality, so it shouldn’t be the result of the new morality, or the goal has not been achieved.

The foundations of ethical  systems lie in consistent and logical application of decision making skills that reinforce a framework of morals that have been examined and determined to be beneficial. There are many schools of thought, but most ethical systems focus on benefit and detriment in a way that sidesteps the cultural habit of inequity, as ethics are typically applied to all people equally. No one is obligated to take any of the established systems wholesale, but they are a great way to form a solid foundation based on reasoning rooted in observation and evaluation.

Learning about ethics can be very complicated and is well learned in conjunction with logic to maximize critical thinking and minimize regurgitation of indoctrination language.

If we don’t want to rely on external perspectives to control what we do, then it is up to us to develop an internal system that is not based on our feelings alone, but a broader perspective that seeks to reconcile our actions with their inherent merits in an effort to guide action toward benefit and away from detriment. Ethics are the answer!

Sang Froid

I prefer to play a good game of offense rather than needing to rely on defense because a strategy wasn’t formed or executed well in the outset. I have become attuned to finding and using opportunities to prevent disaster long before it happens. I love to consult on scenarios to help improve possible outcomes. I can see angles, moving parts and pieces that no one else catches. I can extrapolate results based on proposed actions to determine missing links or loopholes. I can calculate whether or not a project has enough material support to succeed before it’s attempted, and make sure all the necessary steps are accounted for.  I can determine if a proposal is feasible, and whether or not it meets criteria to accomplish its goal.

The world has a lot of things that need doing, and I’m in it for the long haul. I can and often do pick up the slack in the rigging so we don’t have trouble with the sails. I can work lengthy, grueling hours day after day, with no days off in-between. I can get up before the birds, or go to bed when they’re heralding the sun’s arrival, or do both back to back. I can take a nap and then do another shift, with just a few hour’s notice. I can work two jobs, come home, and still get up in the middle of the night for my child or partner. I can be woken early to help solve a problem, or kept up late working on resolution and still make it to work on time. I can even handle having my breaks dominated by other people’s personal problems (or my own), just to go back to my shift and work longer.

I can tell when things are going bad, and often bring a stop to it, if people cooperate. When things go wrong, people look my way, and I am normally prepared to handle it. In a crisis I’m somewhat of a superhero. I jump into action, make sound decisions, and move forward quickly to minimize harm done. I can set aside my pain or frustration as long as it takes to stop things from spiraling and get them back under control again. If people work with me, I can coordinate a concerted effort that can respond to an incident with a united front. I’m amazing at mitigating damage in the short term as well as the long.

I can determine consequences and repercussions, but I prefer to use that skill for active prevention. I am great at negotiating priorities and drilling down to core issues to get them resolved before they cause problems. I can keep a discussion on topic and make sure it addresses logistical concerns. I can help people gain perspective, and interpret possible motivations. I can remind people of the big picture, and help them refocus on the issues at hand. I can help people move past roadblocks and setbacks to complete necessary tasks. I’m great at making sure a job is completed, at least in my work (not so much in my hobbies, of course.)

The silly thing is, when all’s said and done, the smoke has cleared, the dust has settled, and everyone’s on their way home…

That’s when my heart takes over, and tells my mind to wait. That’s when I look around and make sure the world is still standing, that way I know I can fall apart now. And fall apart I always do, as without fail the stress and anxiety finally overwhelm me in the aftermath. Long after it’s all over, my mind closes the barn doors, so I can cry in peace in quiet. At that point it’s not that I don’t know it’s all been resolved. I made sure of it myself. Ensuring that everything is all taken care of is the only real way I can go through mourning and arrive at acceptance.

It’s not much of a surprise to those who know me that I suck at being happy or recreational for very long. That said, I’m a workhorse, always have been and always will be. I get shit done, and I prefer it that way – any day of the week.

Whispering Malcontents

Your attitude is as bad as mine, no matter how you may think you come off. Your voice may be lower but your hushed tones don’t change the content of what you’ve been uttering. The timbre, the pitch, the speed or word choice don’t actually matter that much. Your sentiment dripping with judgment is as obvious as any of my outbursts.

Yeah, you could say to me “but you’re so loud about it!” yet the funniest part is you’re just as loud. The arched eyebrow, haughty exhale, change of posture or sibilant S, tell no less of your true feelings than everything I’ve ever shouted from the rooftops. Glancing around first, lowering your gaze or the volume, doesn’t affect the intensity or clarity of the message. I can tell how you feel because you still indicate it, and sure, you make it between friends, but that doesn’t make you better.

In bold fact, it makes you worse that you feel the same way, but instead of announcing it you keep your judgment like a pet. You stroke it, feed it, and shelter it; you keep it strong with scraps of discontent. You are the one who holds on to this beast like a monster under your bed. You are the one who chooses not to address problems you have with everything else.

Your derisive, condescending, indignant self righteousness has become nothing more than amusing. You feel like you’re right to bottle everything up and keep it all hidden from the world. If you did a better job of hiding or burying things, maybe I wouldn’t find them like oysters ready for harvest. You can tell yourself all kinds of soothing comforting reinforcement, but at the end of the day you’re decidedly no better than I am.

At least no one can accuse me of acting on my assumptions before gaining confirmation. At least no one can accuse me of two-timing or two-facedness to anyone. At least I know I’ve given others the fair chance to face their accuser and make recompense if needed. And sometimes in those moments I learn when I was wrong, so I stand up tall and shout – I’m sorry, and I’ve learned from this.

No one is perfect, least of all moi, but that is the glory of our humanity. We get the chance all the time to correct what comes before us, or just let it go unchecked. I’d rather take a good, hard look at the relationship I have with others than ever pride myself on keeping things from them, or resenting them without seeking resolution.

A true friend may put up with aspects we don’t prefer in another, but no good friend hates something and suffers in silence, it’s almost demeaning. It means they believe that one of the parties can’t manage to engage in respectful conflict, to work out their differences. It shows us that they don’t know how or don’t want to try to conduct a relationship that respects both parties as they are. It means they expect the balance to be uneven, or that someone must change who they are to keep the connection.

Even with strangers it’s not a great way to conduct ourselves, especially because it’s presumptive. To base our feelings and actions on our preconceived notions is patently ridiculous. I may be loud, up front and out there, but I directly ask someone what they meant first. I get that saying specific things out loud with words can be really frightening. But I’m not the worst person in the room for opening up and clarifying what’s already been put out there.

I’m not saying I don’t judge others or act irrationally, we all know better. But I do everything I can to bring things up rather than bitch and judge while claiming to be sweet when it’s obviously false demeanor. Snide comments and backhanded compliments are obvious and offensive. They’re truly no different than any of my expostulations.