Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Maybe Being Snobby Has Its Good Points

In one of my quiz books, there's a question that asks, "Do you keep a journal?" and the choices are:
A. Yes, and I write in it every day.
B. Yes, but sometimes I'm too busy to keep it up every day.
C. No, but I keep meaning to start one.
D. No, borrrrring!

I'm thinking about how all the answers are good ones. Like, reading the question, I'm picking up the vibe that A and D are equally desirable. There's something about A that feels like the right answer, since we normally think of keeping a journal as a positive activity, but D feels equally right, because there's something cool about thinking that writing in a journal is boring. And the fact that both of those answers are desirable makes the middle answers desirable as well. C sounds a bit undesirable at first, but if you look at the desirability of A and D, you realize that C isn't a criticism - it's just someone who's in the middle, thinking it would be nice to keep a journal, but not quite interested enough to actually do it.

Keeping a journal is an introvert activity. I'm not saying extroverts can't keep journals too, but the activity itself is a solitary one. And when I look this question and the way that it's equally desirable to write in a journal every day and to think journals are boring, I realize that I've never seen this pulled off with an extrovert activity. And I've read tons of quizzes. Every question I've seen that involves going to big parties, talking to lots of people, joining organized activities, and being adventurous all point a person toward making the extroverted or adventurous choice. Honestly, have you ever read a quiz where you really felt like it was just as desirable to not try out for the hockey team, to not like big parties where you don't know everyone, or to not go on an overnight ski trip with your friends because it's way out of your comfort zone? Probably not. Not like this question about the journal. 

Part of this is not about the way the question is worded. Like, I don't think the quiz author did anything particularly special with the journal question to protect people's feelings. Keeping a journal is just not an activity that everyone is expected to like. It's totally socially acceptable to find it boring.

But I'm thinking about the wording. I tend to word my quizzes more neutrally. For choice D, I probably would have said, "No, that doesn't interest me." But I wonder if the attitude of D in this question is actually a good thing. Maybe the attitude behind an answer like "Borrrrring!" is the key to making that answer totally cool. Try this:

Your friend invites you to go on a weekend trip with all of her extended family, whom you've never met. Do you go on the trip?

A. Yes! That sounds like a ton of fun!
B. Yes, and I'll be sure to bring some board games or activities to break the ice.
C. Maybe. I'll ask my friend a lot of questions before deciding.
D. No way! Borrrrring!

Okay, I know D might not be worded in a "nice" way, and I'm not advocating that you should talk to your friend this way if your answer is no. But I think that giving some attitude to the "no" answer and making it sound like the person is above going on the weekend trip makes D into something that is just as desirable as A. Again, it's not that I think a person should be "above" doing something, but with social desirability as it is, choosing D would normally be the least desirable because you're supposed  to want to be extroverted, social, adventurous, and get out of your comfort zone. If you simply don't want to do those things, people treat you like you need to learn to do those things no matter how many times you say that you're perfectly content not doing them. But by giving D some attitude, you just wouldn't think to pressure the person who chooses D into going because it would be good for them. 

I think this discovery goes beyond quizzes. I think that maybe I should start talking more like D in real life. I already talk that way on my blog, but maybe when I go out into the real world, I shouldn't be nice about things. I shouldn't be like, "Well, that's not my thing, but you guys go ahead and have fun!" Maybe I should be more like, "Ewww gross! Why would anybody do that?" I know that doesn't sound nice, but when I'm nice, I open up the door for people to push me. I think if I'm more against things I don't like in a "Who the hell would do that???" kind of way, rather than an "I personally have no interest in doing that," kind of way, people will back off and leave me alone. I wish it didn't have to be this way, but being nice about everything has only made things worse for me. People respect my choices less when I respect their choices, whereas people will back off and leave me alone when I'm not nice about the stuff they like to do. I know this from past experience. I have to criticize people for what they like to do in order to protect myself against them. I wish I didn't have to, but I'm starting to think that it is my only option for people to respect my boundaries.

(If you already respect my boundaries, I won't try this on you). 

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