Since the inception of this blog more than three years ago, the following warning has been posted near the comment window at the bottom of each page: “I don't publish rudeness, so please keep your comments respectful, not only to me, but to those who comment as well. We are not all at the same point in our recovery.”
Silly me, I thought that was self-explanatory, but apparently not. The purpose of the warning was, primarily, to discourage trolls: if they know up front that they won’t get published ( and every comment, without exception, is reviewed by be before publication), they may not be willing to expend the effort to write something rude and trollish that they know will never see the light of day. There are some trolls, however…narcissists, really…who apparently see this as a challenge. And I have been dealing with one (possibly two) this week.
Rudeness is a tool in the narcissist’s bag of nasty tricks. Narcissists are well aware of the rules of polite discourse and know that we all expect that from each other. Deviation from the social script is what provokes shouting matches, fist fights, and worse. People hell-bent on winning at all costs can, when their ire is provoked, say and do ugly things. And nothing is more provoking than someone being rude for no discernible reason.
Narcissists use this to their advantage. If you can be provoked to losing your cool, the narcissist “wins” the competition going on in his head. The narcissist gets to walk away feeling superior for having taken control of your emotions and maybe even your better judgment, reducing you to a reacting, acting-out puppet. Some narcissists are so skilled at this that they aren’t even conscious of it…they blithely roll along, dropping little digs and barbs and spouting little zingers and skewering people with their sharp tongues, seemingly oblivious to the death by a thousand cuts they are inflicting on the people whose psyches are pierced by their unkind words. Other narcissists are keenly aware and use rudeness to hurt, control and/or punish others.
In the brouhaha with our visiting narcissist, James, there came some comments and emails from an anonymous writer purporting to not be James in disguise, comments opining that I should 1) apologise to James; 2) listen to James and 3) come to some kind of détente with James. I had to laugh because the author of these missives, if it wasn’t James, obviously missed the meaning of that brief warning near the comment window: “I don't publish rudeness, so please keep your comments respectful, not only to me, but to those who comment as well. We are not all at the same point in our recovery.”
So what was so rude about that, you ask? Well, rudeness does not have to be couched in offensive verbiage to still be rude. Think about it this way:
Suppose you held an open house with the objective of selling your cottagey little house and a person came in and started taking issue with the décor…with your choice of furnishings, throw rugs, knick-knacks, bedding. Suppose she criticized the colour of the sofa, the towels in the bathroom, even the bowl of fruit on the kitchen table. Suppose now, that you told her that since it was your house, it was going to be decorated to your taste, but all of these things would be going with you when you moved, and she should be focussing on the house itself, not on your sofa or towels.
Suppose, then, she told me you was incorrect, that the house should be decorated to her taste because your taste was wrong. Let’s say her taste was ultra-modern and yours was shabby chic and she is insisting that you must redecorate the house to her taste, not because it would sell better that way, but because she is right and you are wrong. Because her perceptions about your decorating taste are right and mine are wrong. Suppose, too, that she refused to stop criticizing your décor style, regardless of what you say about this being your house and that her taste is not appropriate to the cottagey architecture of the house while yours is.
This behaviour is what is known as “presumptuous” and presumptuous behaviour is the epitome of rudeness. In fact, Microsoft Word’s built-in thesaurus defines “presumptuous” as: arrogant, rude, presuming, audacious, insolent, bold, rash, and disrespectful.
Suppose now that the Critic, having been unsuccessful in winning your agreement, turns hostile and begins to engage in character assassination and ad hominem attacks at which time you politely steer her to the door and out onto the sidewalk and tell her she is not welcome back in your house.
What if another person has been observing the exchange between the two of you and she decides to now grace you with her unsolicited opinion…and that opinion is that you should apologize to the Critic and “work things out” with her? Well, in my opinion, this is no less rude than the original.
The purpose of the house being open in the first place was for prospective buyers to look at the house and decide if they might want to purchase it. The original Critic was not invited as a decorator or stager or real estate agent whose opinion about the décor was solicited: she was there as a potential buyer and her concerns about the décor were unwarranted because it would all be gone when the buyer took possession of the property. The initial Critic turned a visit to a home for sale into an argument over taste in furnishings and right and wrong: she created an issue that not only did not exist, it had nothing to do with whether or not the house would be suitable for her needs (remember, the décor would be gone when she took possession of it). As the discussion escalated, the Critic became more and more demanding, from taking issue with the décor to demanding that you agree with her viewpoint on the décor. This was extremely disrespectful as it demands a complete stranger change her views to suit that of the Critic for no other reason than the Critic believes she is right.
The Observer is transparently supportive of the Critic. The reasons could be anything: she is also presumptuous, she also prefers modern furnishings, she prefers to side with the attacker rather than the defender—but her reasons are immaterial. What is material is that she has also taken a presumptuous step: her opinion is unsolicited and it supports presumptuous, rude behaviour.
Everybody has a right to disagree with what I say on this blog…but you must disagree without being disagreeable. What you don’t have a right to do is to attempt to impose your viewpoint here by trying to make me wrong thereby dictating the content of my blog. You have the freedom to disagree and to express that disagreement and, if I agree with you—if I overlooked something germane and that oversight significantly affects my conclusions, then I will acknowledge that. But the person who decides whether or not your observation is germane is me, not you. And if I disagree and I write back and explain why I disagree, pressing the issue further is rude—on your part.
If you support someone’s disagreement, that is ok, too. But supporting someone’s rudeness is not ok. This is not a public forum, this is my blog. I write it to express my observations, my viewpoint, my discoveries and epiphanies; I do not write it to provide a forum for debate. Here, you are free to read and comment—even comment your disagreement—but you are not free to attempt to control the content of this blog. If you want an interactive forum or you wish to control the content of a blog, you are free to create your own.
If you think I am being harsh or selfish here, consider that the way our narcissists beat us down and kept us in check was to cause us to think that we have to tolerate their disrespectful ways, to make us feel guilty for even wanting to stand up for ourselves. A meme I saw on FaceBook says: “I have reached a point in my life where I find it is no longer necessary to try to impress anyone. If they like me the way I am, that’s good. If they don’t, it’s their loss.” Narcissists bank on people feeling the opinions of others are more important than their own opinions of themselves and narcissist use that as a way to manipulate them. I don’t play that game anymore…any airtime a narcissist gets here will be at my choosing and because it fits into my agenda.
So, if you have a comment here or you want to send me an email, keep it civil and polite. You can disagree, but if you are disagreeable about it, then you have crossed the line into rudeness. If I disagree with your disagreement, let it go—you had your say, let that be enough. To persist in trying to make your point and change my mind is disrespectful since this is not a public forum, it is the electronic equivalent of my house. It is a peek into my brain, my processes, my conclusions. Please respect that.