Can we talk for a moment about the danger of absolutes?
I was reminded recently, again, that people are not what we make them in the twisty caverns of our own minds. People are, for better and worse, both more and less, than what we will create of them.
For example, there is this person in my life, let’s call her Becky. We’ve never really gotten along that well and at a distance, Becky seems, or at least feels, purposeful in her cruelties to me. She invites and then “forgets.” She inhales air and breathes partial truths, if not outright lies. She honors no one’s time but her own. I can find a multitude of faults. At a distance, she seems malicious. I see her infrequently, but when I do, it comes crashing back to me every time - there is no malice. Becky is only pathologically inconsiderate.
In my mind and at a distance, I shape Becky into an absolute. That she is this one thing. Because in my mind, I’m willing to believe the world revolves, utterly and completely, around me.
Of course it doesn’t. Not even a little bit. And that’s why the in-person reality is a cold forehead slap.
That’s the problem with absolutes, even the ones we create - they leave no room for humanity. Thinking or even speaking in absolutes flattens out people to paper doll caricatures and takes away the totality of their lives. It’s unfair, and I’m totally guilty.
In recent years, I’ve become better (but not perfect) at not using absolutes when speaking with others, particularly during disagreements. Nothing undermines a great point than a statement that begins with, “Well, you always…” There are very, very few absolutes in this world and using absolute language in an argument is a silly, losing, and dis-communicative way to make your point.
Unless your argument begins with “You always…” and ends with “…breathe air.” don’t do it.
So, if you’re like me and are periodically shocked that you are not the center of the universe, welcome! Let’s start being more mindful of others in a way that doesn’t diminish any of us. It’s a skill that will serve us our whole life long.
LB Adams is the Founder of Practical Dramatics, headquartered in Charleston, SC. Her company provides a wealth of soft skills training events that utilize theatre strategies to help humans grow more profitable conversations with other humans, To find out more about how we can help you craft a great training event, please reach out to us at 843-771-0753.