Stupid & Cheerful…REALLY???

photographing celebrities

by Kenneth Justice

~”You’ve got to pick and choose your battles

Ever hear that before? Whenever we deal with conflict, whether in a face-to-face context, over the Internet, or in any type of situation we will often be told by friends and loved ones, “you’ve got to pick and choose your battles” But how do we know which battles are worth fighting? How do we know which discussions are worth continuing? Many conversations can easily turn into verbal wrestling matches……and do we really want to fight over every subject?

Some people subscribe to the philosophy of never talking about politics or religion; “those subjects are just too controversial and it’s easier to live my life by never discussing those things” they say.

Yet we are adults……why can’t we be adults and talk about hotbed topics with respect toward each other?

A popular psychologist in the United States teaches her clients to be ‘stupid and cheerful’. Dr. Joy Browne says that the secret to successful relationships with relatives and close friends is to be ‘stupid and cheerful’; to ignore their insults, ignore their meanness and to simply be nice toward towards the nasty people in your life.

In many instances I agree with Dr. Browne, there are a lot of people out there that aren’t worth ‘getting into it with’….they aren’t going to listen to anything we have to say so what is the point of arguing with them? In fact, I suspect that being stupid and cheerful is a good attitude in most situations because if we are going to be honest; most people simply don’t care about changing, they are going to continue being miserable people and there is nothing we can do about it.

However, aren’t there any times in our life where we should fearlessly tell someone the truth even though we know it’s going to potentially turn into a blood bath of verbal linguistics? Yet…I’m not so sure. How many times in life is anything really accomplished by telling someone ‘what we think’ when it comes to something serious about their character, choices, or fill-in-the-blank?

Even with our children it can be a slippery slope because children don’t want to hear their parents telling them ‘what is wrong” with their lives.

Many parents have told me; “The reason I tell my children what is wrong with what they are doing is because I want to protect them….I don’t want them to make the same mistakes I made when I was younger”……However; aren’t those ‘mistakes’ what made you who you are? Aren’t the ‘mistakes’ the things you really learned from in life?

Don’t we need to tread cautiously when it comes to telling our older children or anyone ‘what to do’? For some time I have realized that Western Culture permeates this idea among us that it is essential for us to ‘tell others what we think is wrong with them or their beliefs’ and I suspect this is a very dangerous attitude. The fact of the matter is that nobody is perfect and even if you are VERY convinced in your opinion about someone….you could still be wrong. And even if you are right….are you really going to ‘change’ someone by telling them what you think? In most instances people are still going to do what they want to do…regardless of what we tell them.

Working as a counselor I observed countless other counselors and therapists who spend their careers telling other people their opinions; I wasn’t impressed. I knew the private lives of the counselors and therapists I worked with and they were every bit as screwed up as their clients…but in different ways;

—) Sure, maybe the therapist wasn’t a drug addict; but he had a rocky relationship with his wife

—) Sure, maybe the therapist wasn’t an alcoholic, but she was a horrible mother to her children

—) Sure, maybe the therapist wasn’t a codependent, but he was miserable person in his private life and had no friends

Thus, the therapists who I really respected were the ones who were very cautious in sharing their opinions with the clients. The therapists I really respected were the ones who spent all of their time listening, asked a couple questions, and let the client work out their own problems. The therapists who had an attitude that they were no better than the client…were the therapists that I loved the most.

For now it’s time for another coffee,

Kenneth

 



Categories: relationships

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38 replies

  1. Sweet post. Empathy is a clear glass. I developed a weird habit from teaching. If there is someone who is acting like an ass and saying things to me that I hate, what I do is enunciate. That’s right. I just say what I need very clearly and audibly because their response indicates they are not catching my drift. Yesterday this woman who enjoys the pain of others said something unbelievably transparent in the guise of her concern for me. I enunciated her silly, until she dropped her act and let me be. Bullies need smart people to shut them off with peaceable resistance.

    • “Bullies need smart people to shut them off with peaceable resistance”

      agree 100%….sometimes I wonder if bully’s don’t need to be beaten up though 😉

    • I have never hit anyone in my life (yet) but I do think that we can’t ignore brow beaters of any kind. Information to the contrary is all that we can hope to provide, preferably when we are not in their line of fire.

  2. I have a lot to say to this topic.. but I probably can’t say it much better than this person’s answer to a question I asked on a Q&A forum recently so I’ll just post his response and leave it at that.

    My question went as follows: “What exactly (in your opinion) is a “judgmental” person? I get the impression that it’s perfectly fine to most people to -condone- wrong things in others but if you tell them something they’ve done is wrong (even if it is) you’re labeled as being “judgmental”.

    What’s your personal definition of that word in this particular context?”

    Best answer:

    This is going to be a difficult question to answer, clearly because even the people who read the answers previously posted will be having judgmental thoughts or should I say ” Opinions ” based upon how another has answered compared to what they see as correct.

    I think the biggest problem with someone being considered or labeled “Judgmental” based upon their opinion is a flaw in itself. A person may not agree with how you see things, just as you don’t see things as being correct in another. If or when I say I don’t agree with something someone is doing, I’m in no means being judgmental, I’m simply stating my opinion, on the other hand I do believe this is where your being labeled as judgmental comes into play. When a person receives negative vibes from another they are programmed to go into defense mode. Even though you have simply stated your opinion the negativity that they have received automatically sends them into the judgmental sense.

    Everyone including myself does things that are not right, knowing in ourselves that they are wrong, yet we seek a community to collect those of like minds to make our situation seem more acceptable, and allow ourselves to accept those things with a more open heart so we are not so judgmental of ourselves.

    I believe everyone judges a person in the beginning or until they get to know that person. The problem is, people don’t allow themselves to see past that certain part of that person to see what they are really made of. Not all, but some. I’m not going to use anything in particular for an example simply because I would then be flooded with “judgments” or should I say “opinions” based upon what I write.

    In your mind look at someone who has posted something obscene, absolutely unacceptable in your opinion, read it, gather your thoughts on it, then go read the rest of that persons profile and experiences. I think this is where most people make the biggest mistake… Simply overlooking what a person really is based upon one particular writing instead of looking at the picture as a whole. There could have been previous damage done to that person that has caused them to take the road they are now traveling. Seek out that point and help them recover.

    Simply put, I don’t think its the best thing to give a person your opinion unless they ask for it. Read about the person, find out why they are the way they are, and you will be more acceptable by your opinion being stated. I’m in no means saying condone what they are doing as wrong as let it be correct, I’m just saying find the root source of the problem and proceed with care.. because most of the time “Opinions are often passed or accepted as Judgments”

    • “Simply put, I don’t think its the best thing to give a person your opinion unless they ask for it. Read about the person, find out why they are the way they are, and you will be more acceptable by your opinion being stated. I’m in no means saying condone what they are doing as wrong as let it be correct, I’m just saying find the root source of the problem and proceed with care.. because most of the time “Opinions are often passed or accepted as Judgments”

      exactly 🙂 And even when someone asks my opinion….i’m still careful when I respond…

  3. Maybe these therapists knew well that its easier to talk about somebody’s problem than their own. Perhaps, they could become wounded healers too. Oh, well, of course that’s not always the case though. Nice post. Have a great weekend!

  4. James, the apostle that is, said it as well: “Be slow to speak, quick to listen, slow to anger…” There may come a time to speak, but we should make sure the listening we ought to do has been done first. Even then Paul advised “let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt.” I really need to work on this more. The things I am most ashamed of doing over my life are 90% things I have said or not said.

  5. very insightful post…..but I can really see lessons from the bible throughout – not to judge other people, not to try to “fix” other people until we fix ourselves and above all else…..having a love for each other that is not based on performance….

  6. Kenneth you have nailed it on the head! its worth another coffee.

  7. I definitely agree with you at the end of the post, and think that sometimes it’s just not the best idea to tell someone everything that’s ‘wrong’ with them. But anyway, in reference to the beginning of the post, one thing I love about the majority of my friends is that we can often discuss things that we all have different opinions on not with the idea of changing each other, but more just broadening each other’s views so that our own opinions aren’t so one-sided. We can say we’ve heard the other sides of the argument and still subscribe to whatever it is we think. I also think it’s important to be able to say what you think to people you aren’t so close with and still be able to handle whatever they throw back at you with grace and patience. Sometimes the lack of argument can be an eye-opener to the other person in the conversation.

    • “I love about the majority of my friends is that we can often discuss things that we all have different opinions on not with the idea of changing each other:”

      I have a few friends like this as well; we should definitely cherish them :0)

  8. All of this would be so much easier if we could magically know what impact our words would have. Telling someone something that you know they won’t be able to take to heart isn’t helpful. If you can’t say it in a way that will be heard, then there’s really no point, is there?

    That said, I encourage my friends to judge me. It turns out I’m not only flawed, but I have blind spots where some of those flaws hide. I’d rather be called out, even when it hurts, when I’m doing something that hurts someone else and I’m not aware of it.

    Great post. That’s a lot to digest on a Friday afternoon.

    • “All of this would be so much easier if we could magically know what impact our words would have”

      I would definitely buy that magic trick if anyone ever figures it out :0)

  9. saying what you think could be an answer is not telling what is the answer. I know I always speak my mind. But not to say I am right. Just giving something to think. After that it is up to the one listening. Making people think for themselves can be a hard task. just that people often enough think they have a lease on knowledge.
    It is about taking away the straws people look through and broaden their view.

    • “Making people think for themselves can be a hard task”

      sometimes its simply hard enough getting people to think at all! Too many distractions in our fast paced lives and a lot of people rarely every slow down enough to think through things.

  10. Of course some relatives misunderstand the playing stupid thing and rip you off or keep misbehaving in a bigger extend, until they become unbearable to be with, even if you were really stupid. I don’t think stupid is the correct word or state of mind. I think that understanding and speaking your opinion is the basis of communication. If everybody thought like this, maybe reaching a solution would still be hard, but we won’t have bloodshed and hysterias.

    • “Of course some relatives misunderstand the playing stupid thing and rip you off or keep misbehaving in a bigger extend, until they become unbearable to be with, even if you were really stupid”

      so true my friend. I have some relatives that it doesn’t matter if I play the ‘stupid and cheerful thing’ or if I confront them to their face…..they are unbearable to be around no matter what….there is no pleasing them :0(

  11. Well said Monk. Active listening is essential to dialog. Our problem in public discourse today is that no one is listening, and each is determined to be heard…al la Fox News. Over power the other with volume and you win.

  12. People many times need your ears more than your tongue . . . and they will ask . . . and when they do ask, I personally don’t beat around the bush.

  13. “The therapists who had an attitude that they were no better than the client…were the therapists that I loved the most.” Love this! So very true because we all have worth and our worth is not dependent upon what we do for a living. As far as choosing our battles, I have friends that I CAN discuss politics and religion with because we LISTEN to each other and don’t force our opinions on the other person. Unfortunately, there are those people in my life (not my closest friends) who refuse to tolerate any opinion but their own. I will not get into discussions with them because they aren’t open to listening to my point of view and I’d rather BE HAPPY because I know that with them, I will never be right.

  14. Right on, brother! Learned this earlier this year (about counseling), mostly from Carl Rogers and Rollo May. Consider it one of my greatest life lessons. Seems to me, you pretty much nailed it!

  15. I think it’s fair for parents to offer guidance and to warn their kids about mistakes, but telling kids “what to do” is indeed a slippery slope and one that tends to backfire. The whole “because I said so” bit just never works and often is why kids do the exact opposite particularly as teens. Kids need reasons and they want to be treated like people not subhuman. Yes they are children or teens, but treat them as people who can think for themselves (because they can) you will get better results. As far as adults are concerned, just running and hiding from having adult conversations is part of why we’re in the situation we are in – people quit watching real news and focus on celebrity news because they don’t want to face certain uncomfortable situations; they don’t have certain conversations because they don’t want to argue, etc., etc., but the problem there of course is nothing gets accomplished then. Avoiding problems doesn’t solve them.

  16. Telling someone what is wrong with them/their situation/anything else is wrong unless the advice was asked for. Parenting adult children is a minefield (I’ve blogged about that). It’s a difficult situation because what it really becomes about is a whole ‘my opinion is the right opinion’. And that’s just what it is – an opinion.
    Like you, I disagree with counsellors giving their personal opinions and when I finally get the $$ to study and I qualify – I want to help people work out their own problems without giving them my opinion on how they should do it.

  17. For me, it’s all about issues of trust. Don’t know how to explain it more than that, but let the idea have many layers and facets in your mind, and I think I may have conveyed my thought to you.

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