The other day, I was playing a game with friends around a table where we had to guess the answers to a quiz – we were all equally clueless as to what the right answers might be. I made my choice and voluntarily offered my argument to the group for why I chose it.
A wonderful, witty friend laughed and simply said, “You’re full of shit!” Her intent wasn’t to hurt my feelings; she was teasing and hoping to get a laugh from me and the group. And, normally, she would have.
But this time I didn’t laugh. Instead I countered with, “How so? How am I actually ‘full of shit’ here?”
She blinked and said, “Well, it’s just the way you put it-“
“Yes, but exactly how is my idea ‘full of shit’?” I pressed, hoping that if there were two women who could face off in front of a group and not hate each other after, if would be us.
I challenged her because, more and more, I’ve been thinking about the merit of ideas or, more specifically, the practice of defending their merit.
We all face doubters, dissenters, minimizers and dismissers – whether in the form of well-meaning friends, relatives, coworkers or even the voices in our own heads.
These folks will often use dismissal as a tactic when they disagree (either morally or empirically) but can’t formulate a good counter-argument. Any of these look familiar?
“Well that’s just something you would say.”
“Everyone knows that’s not true.”
“I don’t want to get into a detailed discussion, but that just doesn’t sound right.”
“That just doesn’t make any sense.”
“I’ve never heard that before.”
“That’s too ridiculous to be true.”
“Oh, aren’t you funny? You always have such goofy ideas.”
Notice how none of them 1) ask you to elaborate; 2) acknowledge merit; or 3) offer an informative counter-argument?
But they do: 1) Dismiss, minimize and trivialize; 2) Assume other parties agree; 3) Attempt to shut down discussion before more evidence is presented.
Many people find new ideas to be exhausting and sometimes they will even go to the trouble to tell you to shut up.
What do you lose if you give in? A chance to build something of your own? An opportunity for recognition? A better life, a stronger bank account or even peace of mind?
But you don’t have time. No one does. Still, I invite you to consider the words of creative scion, Anne Lamott:
“Do you mind even a little that you are still addicted to people-pleasing, and are still putting everyone else’s needs and laundry and career ahead of your creative, spiritual life? Giving all your life force away, to ‘help’ and impress. Well, your help is not helpful, and falls short.”
But what if you really don’t have time. The baby is crying, the bathroom is disgusting, you have a 7 a.m. meeting and there’s no coffee in the house. Ok, I get it, now is not the time for a new blog. But I’m sure you still have ideas percolating – what are you doing at work to get them out and then nurture them afterward? This is how you get promoted, ladies. In the end, it’s how the big money is made.
My friend and I turned out fine. I defended my idea, she understood and we both lived to fight another day with plenty of love intact*. But, what’s more, I’m reminded that while I may be an insufferable know-it-all, I still have every right to write my writing, to speak my thoughts and to actively counter anyone who would summarily dismiss me without good reason – even in jest, even if it’s a dear friend.
We all deserve a place at the Table of New Ideas. If we can’t do something new, we must do as Cormac McCarthy says, and carry a fire inside, knowing always that it’s there, ready to be built into flame and then roar to life with that tingle ingenuity brings as you realize you just may, just might, just now, have thought of something completely new.
*After all, I’m not recommending becoming a raving ass. I’m recommending you stand up for your damn self and not feel bad about it.