OFF CENTRE: Emotionally incorrect too
By Sherwyn Walters | Tue, May 08, 2012 - 12:00 AM
“Today for me; tomorrow for you.”
Last week, the Jamaica Observer was in my sights for being emotionally off target. This week it might be you.
In other articles, I have dealt with unalertness to cues that say that someone does not want to converse with you; close up and personal trashing of someone’s religious beliefs; insulting, dismissive attempts to persuade someone to your point of view; telling a person who says you offended them that they are too sensitive. Put “not emotionally smart” next to each of those.
Here are a few more of our interpersonal emotional faux pas (yes, the plural form is the same as the singular, just pronounced differently – so don’ go pun Facebook trying to mek sport at me. I know wunna, yuh know). They are careless, inconsiderate engagements of others. I hope you don’t find yourself here.
On this day of the Common Entrance Exam, I got to mention with school touting. Lemme make it clear that I am not talking about that sense of connectedness that many naturally and properly feel for their school.
Neither do I mean school pride that can’t help but bust out in the realm of sporting contest (as in the Barbados Secondary Schools Athletic Championships or the recently birthed Inter-Alumni Association Athletic Championships – a wonderful idea, I must say).
I am referring here to a straining after a sense of superiority over others, a coat-tailing, self-serving vaunting of your school that carries not the slightest trace of noble and ennobling treatment of your fellow man, or of the sober graces (as A. W. Tozer used to call qualities like empathy, love, patience, forbearance, temperance, charitableness and so on).
And that is insensitive to the reality of Barbados, where my doctor (both medical and academic) friends and other achievers and upstanding citizens and all the rest are made to bear some kind of taint of inferiority because at 11 years old they did not “pass for” certain schools. That is emotionally wrong.
But it seems emotional numbness (should that be dumbness?) knows no bounds.
You know that someone is divorced. They don’t talk about it. But you, for no good, sensible, caring reason broach the subject. You start a conversation about the ex-wife or ex-husband. Were you raised by wolves?
While some people walk away from a dissolved marriage with a smile, a divorce is a very painful thing for many. So, emotional sense, if you would allow it, says, “Leave that alone.”
This one still stings some people. There you are, Negroid – black –and someone thought it best to tell the teacher, “That black boy took up my ruler” or say to a friend in your hearing, “Her mother is that black woman from . . . .” Darker-skinned Barbadians have not infrequently been the objects of such “accurate”/“true” statements.
And recently, there was a reference to a managing director as “an Egyptian Jew” in the midst of expressing concern about the sacking of workers. And the lashes came – rightfully so. But a few brought out this defence: If it is an accurate description, what is the problem? Is the man not an Egyptian Jew? End of story.
Not so fast, my emotionally stumbling friend. The boy was black, wasn’t he? The girl’s mother was black, wasn’t she? True. But relevant? Well-intentioned? High-minded? Humane?
Look, people misspeak. If I had asked you to kick me every time I misspoke, you would have had to call in reinforcements. The best we can do is apologize.
Failure to do so is another popular piece of emotional wrongness.
As is the claim that we did not intend any harm or disrespect. But, study it: an exploration of intention in such a case is not an engagement of the issue or the offended person.
If I mash your toe, mekking you see stars and (these days) contemplate homicide, what does my intention have to do with what I actually did to you? The emotionally smart thing is to deal with what I did.
Let’s not just aim for a high IQ; let’s also push up our EQ (emotional quotient).
- Editor's Choice