A lot of people have blogged about Amanda Palmer’s amazing and inspiring TED talk. I’m very late joining in, but it really is worth viewing. If you haven’t seen it, you can find it here.
There were several potential blog posts that came to me in light of Amanda’s speech, but the one I wish to address now is this question:
Why can’t we all speak the truth?
It’s a tough line to draw. As I wrote that, I found myself thinking of exceptions to the rule. It’d have to exclude surprises. What about lying to protect others? What about sarcasm? I’m a huge fan of sarcasm. Except now you’re all thinking I’m being sarcastic (except I’m not, because I would have used italics. Obviously). I refuse to see the demise of sarcasm, if nothing else, what would David Mitchell do for a job? So, let’s ignore that for a moment.
Perhaps ‘truth’ is the wrong word. I’m talking about saying what we mean. No double meaning, no reading between the lines, no ulterior motives, no hinting, no obscure unwritten etiquette. Why can’t there be politeness in the naked truth?
What I’m suggesting is simple.
When people don’t ask a direct question, I theorise it is because they are not willing to hear all possible answers. Admittedly when I ask, ‘would you like me to do the dishes’, I’m hoping the answer will be ‘no, it’s fine, I’ll do them’ but I’m well aware and willing to accept the answer of ‘yes, that would be great’.
When Amanda gives her music, it is honest and without obligation. She asks the question of ‘donation’ and lets her crowd reciprocate with their answer. Some say ‘yes’ and sometimes they say ‘no’.
When people hint, ‘Wow, that’s lovely, it’s gorgeous, I reckon that would look lovely in my house, you are so lucky to have it, I’ve always wanted one of those…’ and you ignore the hinting because it is irritating, and you don’t want to give it to them because they’re hinting and it’s irritating and you ignore hinting. It’s as irritating as repeating yourself.
Why can’t they ask ‘can I have that’? Because then you can say ‘no’ and it’s not irritating and they know exactly where you stand. I assume some would consider it rude to ask, which is probably how hinting developed in the first place. Rude, maybe – less irritating, definitely.
A young man asks his mother if she’d like anything for Mothers’ Day. She says ‘No’ she has all she needs. On Mothers’ Day she asks why he didn’t get her anything.
‘But you told me not to-‘
‘Well I thought you’d at least get me a card!’
‘Can I bring something to dinner on Saturday?’
The host replies, ‘no’.
But is it ‘no, we have everything in hand and anything else you bring will be unnecessary’
or is it ‘no, but I expect at least two of my guests to bring a random bottle of wine’?
Or, they could just say ‘No, just bring yourselves’ or say ‘Yes, please bring a bottle’!
Sometimes though, you do have to toughen up. A friend and I were laughing about another friend’s idiosyncrasies, (I hasten to add, this wasn’t in a malicious way) and I kind-of jokingly ask, ‘What do you say about me when I’m not here?’
‘Nothing actually.’ she says, but then thinks about this a moment, ‘Probably our disbelief that someone so finicky can make such a mess!’
She laughed. I laughed. Not malicious. Just the truth.
Panged a bit though. But you cannot ask and then be offended when you get an answer. It was one of those instances where what you know and what you feel don’t quite mesh. On the up side, it’s made me more conscious of my messiness.
So, that brings me to ask, what if you’re not willing to hear the answer?
Don’t ask the question.