Thursday, 20 November 2014

Sadly misinformed

My father was a horribly self-righteous man. He always had to be correct, and he had to have the last word. Only he knew what he was talking about, the rest of us were sadly misinformed.

Luckily I don't take after him. When I voice my opinions, I expect other people to have different ones. I welcome argument and debate. If I hear a good enough counter-argument, I'll back down and change my opinion in a second.

My father hated it when I argued with him, when I challenged his sacred views. He hated me having opinions contrary to his own. I can't recall a single occasion when he agreed with something I said. He dismissed all my opinions as stupid, half-baked, ignorant or deliberately provocative.

I guess it was his extreme rigidity that drove me furiously in the opposite direction. From an early age I welcomed a plethora of views on every possible topic. The more varied the views the better. Only by exploring every possible line of thought could I be sure of arriving at a sensible, considered conclusion. To suppress opinions, however far-fetched or absurd, was to cripple my mind.

What annoys me isn't different opinions but people's reluctance to voice them. When people don't engage with my views at all but stay conspicuously silent, I wonder what they're thinking. Do they find my views so misconceived, so confused, there's no point in even acknowledging them? Do they simply dislike arguments? Do they dislike having to think? Whatever the reason, I feel frustrated by the lack of a good head-to-head.

But how kind I am to my critics, how lavishly easy-going. My father must be turning in his grave.

23 comments:

Rummuser said...

As I have said elsewhere, you and I have a lot in common and this post about your relationship with your father is another factor that we share. My father was a narcissist to the core and till the very end we had disagreements on just about everything including his own comfort levels!

Nick said...

Ramana: Narcissist would be a good description of my father, except that under all the puffed-up self-importance I think he was actually a very insecure person.

susie said...

Lately I find I don't know what the heck people are talking about. I think I give a blank stare. Or pick my cuticles.

Helen Devries said...

Those who sit silent at meetings and then go on to rubbish the results arrived at without their participation...
I like to have all the alternatives put forward and I don't mind admitting that my solution might not be the best.

CheerfulMonk said...

If people have strong opinions and try to outshout others, I keep quiet and try to avoid them. I do enjoy conversations where we share our perceptions, view of things. Have you ever read and of De Bono's work on lateral thinking?

Nick said...

Susie: Some people's conversation is incomprehensible. Especially if they're talking about football or the latest musical trends or neoliberal paradigms.

Helen: Yes, that syndrome annoys the hell out of me too. Or alternatively people who're full of bright ideas in meetings but then do nothing to carry them out.

Nick said...

Jean: I find that trying to have any influence on people with entrenched opinions is usually a waste of time. I read some De Bono many years ago when his idea of lateral thinking first attracted attention. I can't say I got much out of it.

keith said...

I will go head to head with anyone who likes to discuss sport, diets, sociology, in fact anything but religion. When I meet anyone with strong religious views I just walk away.

Bijoux said...

I generally don't voice 'dissenting' opinions because I've found that despite people saying they aren't close-minded, most actually are! And I don't feel like talking, just to hear myself speak.

Nick said...

Keith: I agree, religion is a minefield because people are wedded to their particular doctrine and usually won't budge an inch. Or else they try to convert me.

Bijoux: Personally I don't find people that closed-minded. If I put a good argument to them, they usually hear me out and may even change their opinions. I don't come across that many people who're totally impervious to different views. Maybe it's the circles I move in....

Eryl said...

Your father sounds like my mother, and my ex-husband. My mother came round and actually apologised before she died, my ex is still arguing about such things as where a particular painting was in our old house.

I rarely respond quickly to any new opinions or views because I have to think them through. I'm not sure if this is because I am naturally ponderous, or due to my experience of both school (where one could easily be beaten for getting something wrong), and that ex and his family who relentlessly mocked any imperfectly formed response. Janet Frame said she found social interaction agony because when someone said something she trawled through all the possible responses in her mind in the hope of finding the 'right' one, by which time the speaker had usually given up and walked away. I totally understand that.

Nick said...

Eryl: It must be torture if you feel obliged to come up with the "right" response or stay silent. I think the question to ask is, right according to whom? On any subject at all, there are a hundred responses and who is to say which is more correct than another? In the end, the only thing that matters is whether your response feels right and makes sense to you. If other people don't like it, that's their problem.

Nick said...

Eryl: What I've always liked about your blog is that you seldom come up with what other people might see as the "right" answer. You go your own way and have your own views and feelings about every subject. It's very thought-provoking and inspiring. So bugger what's right, just do your own thing!

John Gray said...

I've always loved a lively debate
I often play devil's advocate with Chris
Which drives him bananas

Nick said...

John: I bet it does. Academics like 100% dead serious discussions. They don't like to think the other person is simply playing with them....

Jenny Woolf said...

I sometimes wonder if the people who bully their kids realise how likely they are to send them flying in the opposite direction!

Nick said...

Jenny: It doesn't seem to occur to them. They think if they bully their kids enough, they'll give up resisting and be just what mummy and daddy want them to be. Total psychological naivety.

Grannymar said...

My father liked to rule the roost at home. What he said was law! As a child we took it from him, but once into teens, I stood up to him and at times had no problem telling him where he was making major mistakes in the way he was treating not alone my mother, but the rest of us as well. He would slip back to his chair sulking, changes happened slowly, but he never ever apologised.

Nick said...

Grannymar: Good that you stood up to him, even if the changes came so slowly. My father was one for sulking too. He could sulk for days, hardly speaking a word.

Secret Agent Woman said...

My father was also angry and would argue you into the ground. My mother much more passive and so unwilling to take a stand that she allowed us to be abused by both her husbands. Ironically, my father has acknowledged and apologized for how he treated us and my mother flat refuses.

Nick said...

Agent: It's all too common for wives to tolerate their husbands' despicable behaviour without protesting. I can understand their reluctance but it's very destructive in the long run. Children can be quite traumatised.

Interesting that your father has apologised but not your mother.

Wisewebwoman said...

What an insecure little man your father was, it would be interesting to hear about HIS father (or mother).

My father was similar, a rageaholic who never took a drink in his life. If you stood up to him he became both verbally and physically violent until the opinion was retracted.

I am charmed at how my siblings and I speak our minds so well and have learned to debate an issue rather than argue or walk off. I've often thought Dad wouldn't know us.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: I never met his father, he died of a heart attack before I was born. I met his mother a few times, she seemed a nice enough person. I think he felt that life had treated him badly, and "life" included his wife, his son and his various bosses, among others.