Saturday, 21 February 2015

I'm listening

It's common nowadays for people to say they just don't care what others think of them. And they say that as if it's a very wise and mature attitude.

I really don't know where they're coming from. I don't share their attitude at all. To my mind, sensitivity to what others think, and to the effect my opinions and behaviour might have on them, is part and parcel of being a human being.

That doesn't mean I'm a slave to other people's views. It doesn't mean that if someone criticises me, I immediately backpedal and apologise and rush to satisfy them. It doesn't mean that if they come up with some totally bigoted, ignorant, intolerant diatribe, I'll bury my own views and mutter something harmlessly neutral.

But it does mean that although I like to express my views as honestly as possible, I'm considerate of how others might react and I won't be deliberately provocative or taunting or dismissive merely for the sake of it.

It also means that if someone has views diametrically opposed to my own, I won't just dismiss them out of hand as ignorant nonsense, I will at least examine them carefully to see if there's any truth in what they're saying.  Because even the most prejudiced individual can have unexpected insights into something I haven't really thought about.

And it means that if I know someone's feeling vulnerable, or hurt, or distressed, I'm not going to upset them even more by saying something they wouldn't want to hear even if they were feeling more resilient.

As Ursula said, if people don't care what others think, how come they're all ears if what others are saying is in their favour - if it's flattering?

Who are they kidding?

24 comments:

Helen Devries said...

Good manners mean having consideration for others....I don't care what bigots, etc think of my views, but I would be very upset if someone was hurt by a lack of courtesy towards them.

Nick said...

Helen: Agreed, and there's a lot to be said for good manners, however old-fashioned the concept might be to some. And yes, bigots are obnoxious but that doesn't mean deliberate rudeness is called for.

Bijoux said...

When I hear people say they don't care what others think of them, I take it to mean something completely different than you do. Maybe they decide to go against societal norms and live a different lifestyle, etc.

I don't like everyone I meet, and sometimes it has nothing to do with their manners or what they say. Some people you just don't gel with, and that's okay! Likewise, I realize not everyone is going to appreciate my personality, and I'm okay with that, too.

So . . . If I say I don't care, I really do mean it.

Nick said...

Bijoux: You mean you don't care what others think if it's merely about their not understanding your different lifestyle? Better just to get on with your life and take no notice of them because they have nothing to offer you?

Jenny Woolf said...

Sometimes it is a very good idea to shut up and just listen,isn't it, especially when others' feelings seem sensitive.

Nick said...

Jenny: Quite so. But some people can't bear just to listen. They love the sound of their own voice too much.

Wisewebwoman said...

It's a fine line isn't it? For instance my challenges come when I hear rape jokes or god-taking-care-of everything talk or elder-bashing, etc.

I basically tune out or sometimes will challenge which doesn't go down too well.

But I am a great listener to views opposing my own once they don't involve the above.

XO
WWW

susie said...

I always say that I don't what other people think.

But I don't take criticism well.

Contradiction, me thinks.

Bijoux said...

No, that's not what I was saying. I was speaking in generalities in my first sentence. Most people (and I was just giving an example of those who live alternative lifestyles, go against the norm in general) really don't care what people think.

Cheerful Monk said...

Great post! I wrote you an email before I read this.

When I say I don't care what other people think it's more like Bijoux --- not taking it personally when someone disapproves of my lifestyle or when someone unjustly attacks me verbally. It's not about feeling free to hurt them if I can avoid it. Most of my life I've spent a lot more time listening and avoiding conflict than speaking up, and I think sometimes I've gone too far.

I do remember when I was younger trying not to worry too much about what other people thought or said when I knew I was on the right path for me. So it would probably be more accurate to say I try not to take it personally when someone doesn't like me, disapproves of what I'm doing.

Cheerful Monk said...

PS My post on the subject was because someone had been verbally assaulting me online. I didn't argue or delete the comments at the time but wanted to say something. Then I was just as bad, hence the apology. What a mess.

Today's post alludes to it.

Cheerful Monk said...

I really get upset if I hurt someone's feelings, but that's because they're hurt, not because of their opinion of me. I've always been super sensitive, and I've worked on the second (their opinion) part but not the first.

Again, great post. Thanks.

Nick said...

Bijoux: I see what you mean. I can't agree with you though, I think a lot of people DO care what others think - for example, politicians, celebs, artists and authors, journalists, benefit claimants and the unemployed. I don't think there are many people who really don't give a toss about outside opinions.

Nick said...

Jean: Good point about not taking things personally. I DO take things personally, but usually I don't take them to heart because I think the person didn't really mean it, or they're just having a bad day, or they clearly misunderstood me, or whatever, and I tend to shrug off the disapproval quite easily.

I also spend most of my time listening and avoiding conflict. But I don't think that's a bad thing unless somebody is seriously trying to undermine me and I still don't defend myself.

Nick said...

www: This is the dilemma, isn't it -whether to stay silent and hide your own views, or challenge someone and risk getting your head bitten off.

Susie: Ha, yes, a bit of a contradiction there! Personally, I'm not too bothered by criticism, as I said to Jean. But I'm very bothered if I seem to have hurt someone needlessly, and I want to put that right straightaway.

Grannymar said...


I'll have to come back later to this , Nick. Although I can read your post clearly, the type in the commenting box looks like I was using an old manual typewriter with a worn out ribbon.

Bijoux said...

You are right in that most people do care what others think. I worded my second comment wrong. I meant to say "most people who . . ."

Jay, Sparking Synapse said...

You're absolutely right, Nick. It's only the ignorant and the prejudiced who really don't care what others think of them. If you don't care, you never have to rethink your position, do you?

I suspect that most of the time when people say they don't care, they really do - at least up to a point - but they're better at shrugging off criticism than the rest of us.

Nick said...

Jay: Exactly, if you refuse to listen to others, you can continue to go your own sweet way. And I agree that people who say they don't care what other people think are probably fibbing.

Nick said...

Good grief! I just did one of those Facebook quizzes "What is your subconscious obsessed with?" It said I was obsessed with what other people thought of me....

Rummuser said...

I am a saint Nick! So, what could be talked about me?

Nick said...

Ramana: Oh, even saints have their detractors. There were plenty of people who sneered at Mother Teresa.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I care what some people think of me - those whose opinions I value. Otherwise, not so much.

Nick said...

Agent: I value the opinions of close friends more than others but I still take other people's opinions into account. I don't want to alienate people for no good reason.