I do it all of the time, and I’ve done it for years.
Words fall out of my mouth, or fumble through my fingertips, and next thing I know, I’m smacking myself on the forehead. Often, it’s not an immediate realization. I go about my day, my week, or month, and then it hits me. I start fantasizing about how I'm sure people think that I'm an idiot. It feels worse the longer it takes, and after a few days it can get hard to do damage control. Ultimately, It doesn’t even matter when I realize, unless it's before I speak. There isn't much to do after you say something dumb. If nothing else, lets try to not make it worse. If I think I should apologize, I do. Other than that theres only: hope that they don’t hate you, and remember to not say dumb shit.
I’m not sure exactly why this has only recently occurred to me, but there must be a way to stop sticking my foot in my mouth! It's hard enough having social anxiety, and feeling akward. No need to regularly add to the problem!
A few days ago I left a negative comment on someones post. It wasn’t hateful, or obscene. It was definitely a bit snarky, and completely un-necessary. It wasn’t constructive criticism. It was judging someone elses content for what I thought it lacked, instead appreciating what was. It was quite thoughtless, actually. However, this didn’t really hit me until a few days later. What really made it sink in was the fact that the post was on a subject that I really love, that few people seem to know much about. That actually, my comment was a horrible introduction to someone I'd like to get to know. Amongst a niche group of people with whom I’d like to be friends. Beyond that, this whole site is populated by a niche group of people with whom I’d like to make friends. Something has got to give. I can't go on living a life of sub-conscious speech.
Even while writing this post. I managed to make an un-necessary comment, and soon enough, I was looking for a rock to crawl under.
Why is it so easy for me to be unfriendly?
There is plenty of negativity in the world. Particularly in social media. There are so many bad habits to learn and perpetuate. Then, of course, there is always ego. That avatar our minds create, which always wants to feel good about itself, even at the expense of others. The ego is only concerned with itself. This is where judgment comes in. Somehow, that comment I thought was witty, or true, or that I didn’t consciously process, allows the ego a false sense of security. That cushion comes with a cost, however. On-line and in the rest of the world.
Perhaps I carry with me a (never useful) attitude of feeling at odds with the world, or feeling that the world is at odds with me. Whatever the sources are, maybe I should save that for my personal diary, or a therapist. I do know that I must take some active position to form a healthier relationship with all of the people in my life. I am no longer resigned to slapping my forehead every day, and just wishing that I wasn’t an arse. I am making a concerted effort to be kind, and just generally be more considerate of the people I interact with every day
Ok. What are my guidelines?
Before I comment, I should go to the posters profile page. This way I can relate with the human, and not just the words on my screen. Now that I say it, this seems pretty obvious. Not doing so would be like overhearing someones conversation at a party, and responding to them without turning to see who you are talking to.
Never make a joke at anothers expense. If someone could be hurt by the joke, then it’s not funny. This is something I hope I don’t do often. I know it’s been a problem for me in the past. Of course, as a kid, my primary experience of humour was at my expense. Old habits die hard. Since it’s been a problem for me in the past, I know this is one that I should watch out for.
Instead of saying something I think is clever, my aim is for more of my communication to be centered around interest in the person I am communicating with. I’m getting better at this, a little. This is exactly what my post about active listening is all about. Interacting with an emphasis on other people, rather than myself. As I become more practiced in this art form, I will be less likely to drop ignorance into my language. It’s hard to make a snarky comment when when I'm actively engaged in another persons story or perspective. If I'm meeting each new being (digital or analog) with compassion, care, and dignity.
Something else I can do is give myself a 3 minute rule before I hit the post button. I will write my comment, and go to another window. That gives me a few extra minutes to censor myself.
“Before you speak, ask yourself: is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?”
(read this article if you want to go down the rabbit hole of where that quote comes from.)
That is going around the edge of my laptop screen.
None of this seems to be a solid action in a moment. It’s more like a set of habits that revolve around care for and interest in the world and the people in it. It’s a practice of not allowing my ego to be the lens through which I take in the world. It is allowing my heart to be the center through which we relate with each other.
Is this something you’ve struggled with and overcome?
What helped you change your habits?
One final note is that I have to have compassion and care for myself. Accept the fact that no matter how hard I try, and especially as I'm learning a new set of habits, I will mess up. I will say dumb things occasionally and feel like an arse. People will also dislike me for reasons beyond my control.
My job is to do the best work I can, and concern myself with being the best me I can be, and not worry so much about whether people like me or not. The important thing is whatever I'm doing, to do it right.