Friday, August 23, 2013

For god's sake, ask!

We are constantly barraged with sarcastic and ironic memes that point a finger directly at "the other guy." I sincerely try to limit that sort of thing, simply because I'm as flawed, if not more flawed, as everyone else.

The truth is that many people fall into the trap of using veiled or outright insults as a way to fight back against the "I'm ignorant and proud of it" crowd. I learned long ago, however, that using my superior size or occasionally superior intellect to skewer anyone was not only wrong but counter-productive.

There is no easier way to be remembered than to injure a body or ego. For instance, try to recall the three people you hate the most: chances are they come almost immediately to mind, bright and clear on the movie screen inside your head.

Every time you drop an insult, even those that seem minor or negligible to you, you are likely reserving a position on someone else's internal screen. Fifty years from now, you might still be there with the viewer gritting his or her teeth at the memory.

All of that said, in an encouraging not disparaging way, I would like to discuss a plague on social media. I'm, of course, referring to voices that proclaim nonsensical facts while simultaneously failing (or refusing) to absorb any additional, clarifying, or opposing information.

Throughout our lives, we have all met people who seem too embarrassed to ask questions. Some, I think, imagine that intelligent people read books all night or naturally brew knowledge in their sleep.

To this ill-informed group, asking questions is tantamount to admitting stupidity. The rest of us, however, know that just the opposite is true: inquisitive and ultimately knowledgeable minds are constantly asking questions and paying attention to the answers.

There are others who seem perfectly willing to ask, but then misunderstand or completely discombobulate what they hear. These are the folks who proclaim crazy, crazy things, like "once every thousand years the moon touches Mount Everest" or "dolphins are smarter than people and have an advanced city underwater called Atlantis."

Okay, maybe those aren't exact quotes, but I think you get the point. These folks might be well-intentioned and sincere but would definitely benefit from more listening and less talking.

Finally, there is another group. These are the folks who liberally misstate facts...and then go to the ends of the earth to defend them.

I have a friend who is much like this, sincere but not always right. She is often heard giving advice and making seemingly astute and almost secret observations.

I recently heard her announce that a local fashion store was going out of business (she knew this because she works in corporate finance and saw how the clothing stock was being steadily weeded down). Given that hundreds of cars surrounded that particular store every day, I found it hard to believe.

With no malice intended, I called the store manager and outright asked if they were closing. He laughed and said the reduced stock happened every year simply because they were waiting for new designer shipments while simultaneously placing clothing on sale to make room.

So what did my friend do when I told her? She accused me of being vindictive and intentionally trying to prove her wrong.

Not once during her angry retort did she ever acknowledge that the information had been false, nor do I think it was a point of concern in her mind. Though she's wonderful in so many other ways, her need to always be right and "in the know" often keeps people from appreciating her many other amazing attributes.

I should also mention another friend. He and I worked together when we were both in our mid-twenties (more than two decades ago). Tom was a great guy but had been totally absorbed by sports rather than scholastics in school.

On several occasions Tom mentioned that he had a great time the previous weekend and that he and his friends had been "belligerent" together. Tom, to his credit was often trying to expand his vocabulary, so the first few times I heard the comment, I chose not to embarrass him.

Probably the fourth or fifth time he misused the term, however, I made sure we were alone and gently pointed out his error. I'm a pretty big guy, 5' 10", lots of years in the gym, but Tom was even bigger, over six feet with a solid, athletic build.

Tom got angry, furious really. Though we were good friends, it seemed that at any moment a serious battle was about to break loose...but then something odd happened: Tom's eyes watered at the corners.

Anyone who knows me understands that I simply have no desire to upset anyone else. Life is challenging enough without adding to other people's woes. I would have preferred a fight to hurting Tom's feelings.

Tom then wiped his eyes and thanked me. He explained that he often felt embarrassed when around educated peers and that he was certain he had improperly used the word "belligerent" a hundred times in the previous month. In his mind, dozens of other people had allowed him to make a fool of himself.

If there was ever a fool among his friends, Tom wasn't the one. Today he is a well-spoken and successful business owner.

Though this post has gotten a little unruly, I simply wanted to encourage everyone to listen and learn as best you can. Ask when you're not sure of something, and take feedback with appreciation and attention.

If you have friends, family, making obvious misstatements, share the facts with them in private. We should strive to never hurt anyone's feelings, but sometimes silence can be more cruel.

I, for one, would find the social media landscape much more fun if it wasn't so filled with disinformation and bickering.

What do you think?


  1. Agree with all the above. My father was an explosive expert and that was something he always stressed in his seminars,"If you don't ask, you will die." That got everyone's attention and he would be bombarded with questions. I to have several friends which continuously miss-state positions. I try and be endearing to the confusion but at times it is trying.

    Always take the high road. The low one will only bring more unwanted frustration to an already explosive situation.

    1. Jeff, your dad sounds like a fascinating guy...and I wonder why I haven't seen any new novels featuring an explosive expert :-) Thanks for the note and the added thoughts!

  2. spot on my friend......great post

    1. Thanks for dropping in, Andy. Wishing you the best of weekends :-)

  3. It's so hard to take correction sometimes--but it's better than dishonesty or ignorance.

    1. Alesha, I absolutely agree. I ultimately wonder if we all assumed a position of "kind intent" if that would improve communications. We would then know that others were not trying to put us down, and we would obviously not do or say anything untoward to others. Come to think of it, there are religions built on that philosophy :-)

      Thanks for popping in!


Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment! :-)