Stop relying on assumptions and start having uncomfortable conversations

Have you ever been in a situation where maybe you know someone who’s going through something and when you try to offer some advice, the person rejects it? This article is for you and hopefully, for everyone since I am sure everyone has gone through rejection.

We are all unique, different, and complex individuals; I understand that argument. It is difficult to hear someone try to tell you how to manage whatever traumatic incident you experienced when they themselves couldn’t possibly understand. On the other hand, I see so often people missing out on insightful conversations because they rely on quick judgments they made on the other party.

For example, I was watching a show on the TLC network where a group of overweight women went to a conference on embracing their figure and one of the speakers at this conference was not overweight. The women felt she couldn’t possibly know what it is like to be judged based on physical appearance, but to their surprise she definitely understood. No, she did not experience the mistreatment in the same way, but she explained how her height and skin color made it difficult for her to feel confident about her physical appearance.

This post is inspired by a phone interview I had. The person interviewing me noticed my minor in Women’s Studies and wanted input on what books would cater to women audiences. I suggested physical appearance as a category that any woman would find interesting. I explained that women definitely have to be conscious of their looks at all times and any kind of book whether fiction or non-fiction would most likely catch a woman’s attention if it has the element of beauty politics. My explanation lead to a mini-argument on physical appearance and dating which I am not sure is appropriate for a phone interview for a potential internship, but nonetheless, the argument was had.

He argued that he can tell just by looking at a person whether they are lazy, taking good care of themselves, athletic or a couch potato. I argued that there is more to a person than just their looks. Someone can be visibly thin and unhealthy. Someone can be visibly bigger-bodied and fit. We are complex beings and to rely on that sense is incredibly rude to the people being harshly judged. It is better to explore those judgments rather than assume your judgment to be fact.

I was in a situation where I was casually talking to this guy online but wasn’t very interested at all in continuing to speak with this guy. So in the middle of the night maybe months later, I get a text from him where he advised me to be nicer. He sent 2 pictures explaining the benefits of being nicer which revolved around being happier. So I questioned why he was sending me this text since I haven’t talked to him in a long time. He responds with (I am paraphrasing but essentially), “You know what your problem is? You are beautiful and definitely wife-material but you are so boring.” I was incredibly insulted. A million things ran through my head on how he felt he was in any position of authority to advise me on my love life.

That situation came to mind as I was on the phone with my potential boss. I remember giving the guy I once was casually talking to a scenario. The scenario was walking into a fast food restaurant and seeing a visibly-obese body ordering a meal. I asked him if he thought it was right to give this person advice on ways to eat healthier and he replied with yes. He said there is no problem with walking up to that person and giving advice on how to get in shape, which is problematic, here’s why:

  1. You do not know this person. You have not built a relationship with this person plus you know absolutely nothing about them. All you know is their outer appearance is visibly obese and they are ordering a meal at a fast-food restaurant.
  2. Because you know nothing about them, you have no idea what they are ordering or who the food is for. There is so much context that is not being accounted for. It would not be helpful to give advice in that situation if you don’t know the full story.
  3. It is also problematic because if someone needs help, they can always ask for help. I am pretty sure large-bodied people are aware of their large bodies. If a large-bodied person comes to you for help on ways to get slimmer, then you can have that conversation and advise them on ways to get slimmer. If this person, regardless of physical appearance, is in need and doesn’t ask for your help then it shouldn’t be any of your business. Your duty as a human is to worry about yourself and/or the people you love and care about, but if you have the means to help someone there are definitely ways to express your qualifications without being inconsiderate.

At the end of the day, you just want to help. I challenge you to ask why you want to help. Who benefits from your help? Check your intentions! If you have good intentions, there shouldn’t be a problem to actually communicate those intentions. This situation comes in so many different forms, but the same principle applies. If someone’s parent passed away, and you want to offer ways to feel better because you have experienced a loss as well but you didn’t lose a parent necessarily; the same principle applies to you too. Do you want them to feel better because you want to see them happy and live a fulfilling life? Or are you more concerned with not having to deal with someone feeling sad every time you interact with said person? Check your intentions!

I can’t say it enough! Be sure, you are coming from a good place before offering assistance. If more conversations are had between different walks of life, the more you can learn about other people. Learning about other people can give you insight on real world issues and how to fix them. This requires you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I also want to stress, being respectful and responsible with people’s situations. We are all unique, different and complex individuals; what may be okay for one person may not be okay for another person, which is why having more discussions are essential.

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