To my dear friend,
I value you more than you know. I want to share this because it’s so very important to me that you grow. I want you to become a better person. I don’t see the bad. I see the infinite awesome future. What you become. I’m not good at communicating. I can only hope that you hear this as a kindness and not just a criticism. Not an attack but an opportunity to grow. I can only hope that your filter receives this kindly.
There really isn’t much more I can say. I honestly wish you would take this as well as I intend it. Not as an insult. Saying this at all, especially before we established safety of conversation (1 in the link) is something very vulnerable (16 in the link). It’s really scary to look at someone I consider a potential new friend then Dare Greatly. At the risk of failing to communicate in a way that might push you away… I was inspired by Mako when they said:
I realised if I ever wanted the world around me to be halfway acceptable to me, I would have to learn to change people.
People say “you can’t change people”, but they’re just telling themselves that to absolve themselves of this very heavy responsibility we all have to take an active role in each others’ growth.
I would regret not trying to take this vulnerable leap. To give myself an active role in your growth, and the growth of all the people around me.
I want what I have said so far to not come across as “about me”. I want this to be about you and how I want to help you.
You have two particular voices. The Explainy Voice and the Complainy voice. They present at the same time or in rapid succession. I am not sure that you have noticed that there are two, because they can be used so close together and interchangeably.
Internally your behaviour would feel like, “I just found something you don’t know. Let me teach you all about it”. The trailing verbiage will be some kind of educational material that you deemed valuable and relevant for sharing. I love this. It’s an honest gift of knowledge. It’s a chance to learn directly from yourself who feels like they are a master. Training and guiding in “the way of things”.
Often your Explainy voice comes from a miscommunication, a lack of understanding or clarity, or a need for learning. The sentiment behind Explainy voice can be understood as prefacing every sentence in the Explainy voice with the words, “This is really interesting, let me help you understand this thing that I know really well“. And that’s a really valuable sentiment. It’s how we learn as humans and it’s how we grow.
From the outside, Explainy voice sounds passionate, enchanted, optimistic, animated, inspiring, supportive (and more). From the inside it’s like putting on a cape. Being a superhero of truth, knowledge and all things sacred and honest in this world.
Some people call this voice “Mansplaining”. I don’t see a problem with explaining passionately. Especially if you can share new words, concepts or phrases that describe the topic in a cleaner and simpler way.
Dark cousin of your Explainy voice. It’s the friend who only has critical things to say. “did you like the movie?“, “that movie last week that was better“. The Complainy voice is frustrated at the world. That movie last week was in fact better and therefore deserves a mention. That’s what it feels like from the inside. From the inside of Complainy voice it feels completely justified to be raising the complaint.
The world is broken in many ways. Complaining about the ways in which the worlds is broken is going to sheds light on them. Shedding light is going to bring about change. And change is going to make the world a better place. Or at least that’s what it feels like from the inside.
From the outside view (people looking at you), when you use Complainy voice it makes you look bitter. At first passionate. Then invested. Only people who care enough will bother to complain. Cultivating an understanding of the nature of the problem is a major milestone on the road to solving a problem. Einstein said;
If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes figuring out what the problem is and 5 minutes solving it.
Experiencing the thoughts that the world is broken. Noticing exactly how, What’s gone wrong. Then moving toward a solution, is an incredibly rewarding process. Without being able to complain (by thinking, describing and identifying the problem), the solving could not happen. Complainy voice is important for this reason.
When it’s only used on it’s own. This is what I dislike about complainy voice. It sounds angry, bitter, frightened, mistrustful, irritated, aggrivated, outraged, resentful, contemptful, upset, desparing, (and more). It sounds ugly. It sounds like the feelings that I don’t want to go anywhere near out of fear of being sucked in. I want to emphasis that complaining as part of a bigger picture is crucial. Complaining alone is dangerous and antisocial. It’s not enjoyable to hear.
If as Jordan Peterson suggests – meaning comes from story, and your story is all complaining. Your world is all about complaining. That’s what will fill your identity. That’s where your sentiment about the world will derive from. Is the world “mostly good” or “mostly bad”? Is the answer different coming from a complainy place to if it comes from an explainy place?
This is about an internal state as much as an external state. Contempt is about the story we tell ourselves about the other person (see NVC) and is a state of negative intent. I hold you contemptuously. For example, “a good person would not run late”, “if you were smarter you would just…”, “I work so hard on this relationship and you just…”, Some examples of displays of contempt include when a person uses sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humour [see – emotional intelligence about physiological events]. This overlaps with Inherent criticism and makes more sense with [NVC].
Contempt has two antidotes, Teacher mindset and curiosity. Teacher mindset can change an attitude of, “He should know what he did wrong” to, “I need to explain to him how to do it right, otherwise he won’t know”. Curiosity [See NVC] can take you to a place of trying to understand what is going on and take you away from the place of the stories we tell ourselves.
I have absolutely butchered the theory by squeezing it into a quick summary, but importantly I want to bring up the antidotes. Similar to contempt, the antidote to Complainy voice is to use the Explainy voice or to be curious about why things are so Complainy-worthy. When complaining, no amount of understanding can satiate the complaint. When explaining, you impart the intention to be understood.
This might be a personal preference. I might be mad. I listen to complainy voice and I disconnect. I hear stories and I don’t feel like I am being shared with. I feel like I am being shared at. Like a voice recorder. This is distinctly different to the feeling of receiving explainy voice. I love to receive explanations, I love to learn from anyone who has a passion for knowledge. I could listen to someone teaching me things all day. But complaining, I can listen longer than most… and far shorter than I can for explanations.
To my friend. I don’t know if I successfully scared you away. I don’t know if you appreciate the difficulty. It’s hard to choose to tell you words which might hurt you. Even if they make you grow afterwards. I would rather live in sin, than never have taken the chance.
The funny thing about writing for a friend is that in some ways that friend is me. It’s me of a few years ago. In my phase of angry-at-the-world teenager. Or angry-at-the-system adult. Or angry-at-the-universe in my yesterday. Today I look at that version of me, with compassion for who I was. Working with the information at hand. And hope for a better me tomorrow. To look back at who I am today. With compassion.
Meta: this took 4+ hours and some real life inspiration to write. I need to get it into better words. I only wish I knew how.