the power of words

And as she tried to leave the room the questions kept coming – but for poor polite Jane she had to keep turning back to the room to answer so as not to offend.

We have evolved a society around communication. Although there are several elements to communication the area to politely adhere to is verbal communication. It is harder to validate a response of I am offended by your hunched shoulders and rapid breathing but the seemingly concrete structure of language gives stronger hooks for one to grasp on to and claim – you are being rude. Jane needs the toilet and politely asked to leave the room as she said she has a couple of things to do. Those asking the questions believe Jane is very rude if she walks away while they are talking to her. Jane knows this and therefore attempts to conform so she is not accused of being rude, hence putting herself in an awkward position under the belief if she does offend them she is in the wrong. She has also been brought up to believe you should not mention bodily functions in polite society.

The main problem in this scenario is how our society has developed to let Jane suffer under the illusion she is being rude when it is the other people who are being rude in my eyes. Eventually I cut bluntly and loudly across the conversation “Will you two let her go – she obviously want the bathroom and asking her questions is keeping her here against her will. ”

End result – I am considered rude and am subjected to some eye rolling, tutting and comments about my rudeness. However Jane gets to go to the bathroom and comes back to finish the discussion a few mins later as she said she would all along. The rules about human interaction are faulty and, while I am sure it is elsewhere documented by people more intelligent than me, have a correlation with gender in some aspects and therefore a gross generalisation. The correlation with gender does make sense in evolutionary terms. I am not saying it is wrong to be on the other side of the fence from me – just that is it wrong not to be able to see that there is another side.

Women tend to speak more than men, I cannot remember the ref. for any of this but one study had women averaging 8-10,000 words a day and men 2-3,000. If someone can find the ref and the real facts I will update this. And so the social interaction has its gaps filled by small talk. Have you ever spent time with someone without a lot of irrelevant gossip? It can be bliss.

When I have spent time with my grandfather, father or my sons – sitting in silence can be perfect for all concerned. These silences are actually conversing slowly about a subject without traversing to other lands before the conversation naturally is ready to move on. Gaps in the conversation are not considered rude or to to be filled. Taking a breath does not mean someone else need to chime in to keep modern society ticking over. Most of the conversation I hear people use as filler is complete drivel and does not help us in any way.

Now I am as bad as the next person for gossip and I did mention that the gender difference is a gross generalisation, e.g I speak at least 5 times more words in my working day than my wife does – I am the talker so she can wear the trousers.

So can these social rules be re-evaluated? Rather than the current format where you are rude not to drop whatever you are doing and prop the conversation up with your input needing 100% focus can we get to a point where the person who talks complete drivel for the sake of their mouth doing something should expect a hostile response and this behaviour is considered being rude?

However as I said earlier there is another side of the fence and I appreciate the common boundaries work for lots of people in lots of conversations. This means in some events and setting and audiences I will conform. I do this because I can see your side of the fence, I just don’t like it there.

Sulking or ignoring me is the number one response I get from women when I ask through my work how do you know your partner is not happy – what signs can you see. These are always weighted that the male is wrong to not interact when she seeks attention – perhaps you are being rude by expecting it. The song goes:

“Its a man’s world but it ain’t nothing without a woman”

Perhaps the cornerstones of polite society are built on the ideals on one gender’s communication base-code not the other? Is this really a man’s world when any married man knows to maintain a happy household the wife must win all disagreements. And as I have been married a dozen years I am happy with that position. Estate agents sell houses to women, if they can get the woman to desire the house the man will always come round, the reciprocal is not as clearly cut.

As usual with my ramblings people do not agree. That is OK – debate is healthy and any research you find let me know. In my life I have always had more female friends than male and I seem to get on with females who are not the classic gossip chatty types. Hence this issue I raise does not apply to most of my close relationships –  stating it is a gender issue is far too flippant a generalisation for the real world. However the polite society rules seem to fit one side not another.

signed : Grumpy Old Man