Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why Complain? Avoiding the First Person Singular!

Thorn stuck in your paw?
"I'm so Hot!!!" Gramma Rosie complains.  "Are you using the first person?" say I.

"You don't care if I'm alive or dead, do you?" she shouts back and stalks off.  Fortunately the "burn" passes like a summer storm.

She cranks up a couple more fans--and we get back to the business of sweltering.  It's near the end of August and the swamp cooler is humming night and day.

Why do we complain, anyway?

Stephen Covey sets aside time on family hikes---3 minutes every mile or so to "hear" complaints.  He says it "gets the negative out of their system and they can go on having unburdened themselves  (Eventually the complaint sessions dissolve into laughter)

H. Wallace Goddard, Ph.D. teaches that that a complaint is another bid for connection.  It's like asking your wife to join you on a trip to Home Depot.  It's cuz you want to be with her, not that you really expect her to measure, cut and carry.

After tempers had cooled and time had passed, I asked Gramma Rosie what she had expected me to say; what she was hoping for from me.  She took a cold look at the question and launched into a discussion of my accident, last Friday at the Sugar House DI.  When paramedics responded to my fall off a stationary bike, cracking my head and wrenching my back, they turned to Gramma Rosie.  "Was he dizzy or heat overwhelmed?" they asked.  She was not aware of either.

She did know about my colossal bad judgement in trying to mount a bike and dismount wearing the klunky post surgical shoes the VA podiatry department had velcroed on my feet over the compression wrappings from knee to toe.  But paramedics aren't equipped to deal with just bad judgement in the field.

The Sweltering Suffering we go through every year about this time is just another test.  We rarely complain when it's too cold.  We just turn up the thermostat or put on another sweater. 

I've likely made a mistake imposing the NO FIRST PERSON rule during the superheated months of July and August.  A more sympathetic quiet understanding or that mournful sound you make with your mouth when you sympathize would not go amiss.

We all tend to hobble along on verbal crutches--The most common one is the ubiquitous, "Have a Nice Day!" usually uttered by high school kids as cashiers at one store or another.  I love to stop them cold with, "And suppose I have other plans?"  Most don't know what to say in response.  No real sentiment, no real listening going on. No real brain activity--just verbal automatic pilot. 

Telemarketers will ask for Rosemary Howe.  That's a dead giveaway that its a telemarketer, so I ask the Breaking question, "Do you know her?"  Stops 'em every time.

The function of a comic is to listen--really listen, understand the nature and intent of the comment and then turn it on it's ear with an adroit turn of phrase.   Most comics are extremely quick.  Most people are not only slow they're gliding along on life from verbal crutch to verbal crutch.

Teaching in the church is filled with some distrubing conventions.  As a Gospel Doctrine Teacher I got into the thick of things asking people to compare and contrast.  Most senior citizens (the bulk of the members of our ward) left compare and contrast back at the starting gate for entrance into a good college back in the 60s.

Most of what passes for thinking, especially among Grampas and Grammas  is verbal crutch reactions.  They've gotten by without thinking for so long, that they depend on emotion, how it sounds and if it is harmless to get along in life.  Thomas Paine would have had a hard time rattling his saber of rhetoric and raising a revolution among the complacent senior set in our neighborhood.  Propsperity has turned our brains to mush.  No wonder so many hereabouts die of Alzheimers or Dimentia.

The poor senior who has left with doing word find on a dinner date with his wife--could no more sustain glittering witty dinner conversation that fly to the moon backward his bed socks on.

Why complain?  Nobody wants to hear you complain!  So why do it?  You need, you need!   Find another way to need.

It's said that no less than President Richard Nixon had built in a reflex action. If he was really mad at you, his Quaker mother had taught him to fall back on generosity.   The more upset he was at you in person the more times he offered another cup of coffee in Presidential china, or tossed you another set of presidential gold cufflinks.  The recipient of all this presidential courtesy would think they're riding high only to be shot down by a henchman after---with some nice parting gifts.

Merrill Osmond's used to keep a good sized cookie tin filled with rich, thick beautifully decorated cookies,  in a big drawer of his executive desk when he was President of the Osmond Studio where he oversaw the video taping of the old Donnie and Marie Show  (1976-79).  The cookies had a purpose.  Merrill hated confrontation (who doesn't) so when he thought someone needed firing, he would invite him/her into his big office with "the executioner".  The conversation (as with Nixon) would center on the victim's accomplishments.  Praise was lavished.  Everything was positive until the sign was given, "Hey, you want a cookie?" The tin would be opened and the END COOKIE wouild be offered. The henchman would get proof positive that after the meeting, the final check should be cut and the firing should take place as privately and definitely as possible.

(When I left the Osmonds (or they left me) the last time in Branson, I bought a big tin of cookies and gave them to Merrill at our last meeting.  We both knew what it meant and had a good laugh over it.  One technique exposed happily.

Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses to the Golden Plates,  protested to whomever would listen that he hadn't left the church, the church left him.  (In fact he became the caretaker of the Kirtland Temple when the bulk of the saints went west to Nauvoo.

Gramma Rosie, who makes a good case for continuing her complaint tradition, says that I (and other male spouses) need to observe conditions more closely.  If you can tell the EMTs that your spouse was complaining of (fill in the blank______________)  She's all for honest and open communication.   I guess I'd like to hear some thinking going on.  Avoiding the 1st person singular makes you work--and thereby overcome Alzheimers and Dimentia for one more day.

Bob Dole had this technique down!   You may remember during the campaign of 1996 he simply referred to himself in the third person as in, "Bob Dole will represent you; Bob Dole feels your pain; Bob Dole has been around the block and Bob Dole knows how to serve!  Maybe his mother had challenged him not to complain..and never use the first person.  Makes you think,  yes? JWC

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