Sometimes people listen even if they pretend not to

Or pretend to disagree.

Or pretend to be upset that you had the temerity of bringing forward disagreement.

Sometimes they say one thing and you feel like you were punished for complaining, but their actions are affected by your complaint.

Sometimes you get the opposite, where the person is like yeah yeah, totally… and then nothing happens.

I’d rather have the no no, how dare you complain, followed by positive action on the problem.

It’s taught me that I should complain anyway.

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13 Responses to “Sometimes people listen even if they pretend not to”

  1. Debbie M Says:

    I’m always annoyed with movies where one character tells another character shocking news and then gets upset that the person isn’t okay with it instantly. People are allowed to be shocked first. And people keep thinking over shocking things, after which time they sometimes can handle it. But if the first character has already run away, killed themselves, or otherwise burned that bridge, well, that makes me angry. (In movies, usually the first character re-thinks their anger at the other person not getting it quickly enough so it works out.)

    In real life, the only time I can remember changing someone’s mind was when I told my sister that she said “um” a lot, and she thought she didn’t. So, I raised my finger every time she said “um” for the next few minutes until she begged me to stop. So I was right there while she was working out the new information.

    Oh, wait, we also once had a programmer who was infamous (and eventually got fired by new bosses) for saying “can’t be done.” What he meant was “Right at this moment I can’t imagine how that could be done.” Half the time he’d contact us the next day saying that not only had he figured out how to do it, he had gone ahead and done it. (Stupid new bosses who fired a good programmer. They eventually lost me too.)

    I think when I let people know things are bothering me, that information can percolate until they can figure out a good solution, compromise, or partial help. But if we disagree about philosophy (politics, religion, finances), I might help them understand my side but am rarely able to change their opinion and vice versa.

  2. bogart Says:

    There with you, but — an interesting post, today of all days: I feel there are people in our government who have embraced this approach with an excess of enthusiasm.

  3. Chelsea Says:

    We’ve told our long distance landlord that the bay window on the front of the townhouse we are renting is about to rot off the front of the building. We’ve sent pictures. His son-in-law who is a carpenter checked it out and sent him pictures. Every month or so we say, “Any progress on the window?”. And there is never any progress. I guess we just have to wait for there to be real property damage before he takes the situation seriously. Too bad for us it will probably be during a blizzard.

    • rented life Says:

      We’re having a similar problem with our landlord and the basement that keeps flooding. So last month with my rent check I sent a detailed letter of how long it’s been, how often I’ve been ignored and how I will without a doubt without any portion of rent that it takes me to solve the problem because it’s not a safe, habitable environment (mold!). I informed him I’ve done the research and will be providing invoice purchase proof. Suddenly it was urgent for him to schedule a contractor and reimburse me for what we’ve spent so far.

  4. delagar Says:

    It took me a long time to figure this basic rule out — that just because people didn’t agree with you AT ONCE didn’t mean they weren’t hearing what you were saying; that just because you didn’t have instant conversion didn’t mean you weren’t having an effect; that the lack of applause did not always equal the lack of impact.

    Also: a good rule for personal relationships: always ask at least twice, and sometimes three times. “Do you want to visit that museum next week?” “No.” (Two days later.) “Hey, that museum is still having that exhibit. We could still make it.” “Meh.” (Two says later.) “What about the museum on Saturday? Yes or no?” “Yeah, sure, why not?”

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      In the midwest we always ask 3 times just as a matter of culture. :)

    • rented life Says:

      I really like that relationship rule.

    • rented life Says:

      Actually this reminds me of how people operate at my work. I’m being considered for a certain project and the person initially said no, but really needs to think on it. My boss said this happens a lot: people say no and then a few days later say “oh wait, maybe that is a good idea.” In my personal life I’ve had relatives flat out disagree with me and then ages later, after thinking and processing, they’ve changed their minds.

  5. hush Says:

    “I’d rather have the no no, how dare you complain, followed by positive action on the problem.”

    I’d love that, too. So cool when it happens like that! It doesn’t go that way all the time, of course, but it has gone that way just often enough for me so that like you, I’ve become comfy being a politely persistent “complainer.”

    The negative weighs heavier on the brain than the positive. I believe they call it the negativity bias, and it’s the best explanation I can come up with for why so many of us tend to reward bad behavior. It’s why guilt trips work. It’s why the gossip is often the most popular. It’s why the well-behaved child in the family is the one who the gets ignored. Ad nauseum… So I’m all for trying to use the power of the negativity bias for good.


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