abstraction

Words can be misleading

Words that have the same sort of semantic shape can mean radically different things. It doesn’t matter what they logically should mean. It matters what they actually do mean.

For instance: “pride”

  • Gay pride means asserting that gay people are legitimate and have the right to live and love
  • Straight pride means asserting that straight people are better than gay people

It’s important to understand how words are actually used. If you rely too much on logic rather than actual usage, you can end up inadvertently saying really hateful things.

sometimes abstract discussions are not appropriate

nimbusdx:

realsocialskills:

If someone is telling you about a bad situation they’re in, or something they’re upset about, it’s probably not a good time to launch into an abstract discussion of something tangentially related.

For instance:

  • Jane: My coworkers keep hitting on me. It’s really getting to be a problem.
  • Bill: Well, hitting on people can be very important.

Likewise, when someone wants support for a bad thing that happened, that is probably not a good time to have an abstract conversation with them about the nature of the words they’re using.

For instance:

  • Bruce: This is such an awful work schedule. My boss keeps telling me it doesn’t matter because we’re doing such awesome things. He’s so freaking invested in his privilege.
  • Leo: I don’t know that I’d call that privilege. I mean, obnoxiousness sure, but I’m not seeing the privilege. Doesn’t privilege mean being part of a privileged group? How’s your boss privileged?

Bill and Leo might be right, but what they’re saying isn’t appropriate in context. They’re changing the subject to make it about something else they want to discuss in an abstract way, rather than listening to the problem the person is actually talking about.

That’s obnoxious. (And it’s different from calling people on bad things they do, which can be important too. This subject-change to an abstract topic rather than the problem at hand is a different thing than saying “hey, you’re saying something messed up here”.)

nimbusdx said:

Let’s take a look at the second example with a small difference

Bruce: This is such an awful work schedule. My boss keeps telling me it doesn’t matter because we’re doing such awesome things. She’s so invested in shoving the fact that she’s a “black woman in the workplace” in everyone’s face that she doesn’t care she’s overworking us.

Bruce still has a legitimate problem. Should we overlook his potentially unfair second remark because his legitimate problem is more important than challenging his potentially racist/sexist remark? Suddenly, when it’s a white man making an unfair remark about a black woman, I would hazard a guess that most of the people on this website (including yourself) wouldn’t think it “too obnoxious” to challenge the remark instead of addressing Bruce’s legitimate problem.

realsocialskills said:

There’s a difference between telling someone they said something messed up, and changing the subject to something abstract.

In the example you raised, it would be ok and probably important to tell Bruce that he’s being racist and you’re not going to put up with that. That’s different than having an abstract discussion and ignoring what Bruce is actually talking about.

daisydeadhead:

Goebel Gone Global: sometimes abstract discussions are not appropriate

realsocialskills:

If someone is telling you about a bad situation they’re in, or something they’re upset about, it’s probably not a good time to launch into an abstract discussion of something tangentially related.

For instance:

  • Jane: My coworkers keep hitting on me. It’s really getting…

Goebel Gone Global said:

If you think someone is upset in error and you understand them to be mature enough to handle the disagreement, it seems worthwhile to let them know and explain your reasoning.

daisydeadhead said:

Key word/concept is “reasoning”–root word, reason.  

Emotion (upset) is one side of the brain, while objectivity (reason) is another. When someone is upset/angry (one side of brain dominant) and you try to appeal to reason (the other side), the emotional side becomes even angrier. They usually perceive this as taking the person’s side whom they are angry with, or as antagonistic to them.  

By bringing something back to ‘reason’–they experience this as therefore 'denying’ the emotion, because the two do not co-exist:  If you can be reasonable, you are by definition, not emotional, and vice versa.  

Explaining “reasoning” to an emotional person is regarded as highly inappropriate and people will often dislike you for it.    

realsocialskills said:

I think that depends heavily on the context and the people involved.

Some people in some circumstances primarily want sympathy and validation when they’re upset. Other people in other circumstances want help thinking through the situation.

I’ve talking about something very specific here - when people instead of responding to the situation someone’s actually in, treat it as an opportunity to have an abstract philosophical conversation.

I think doing that is almost always unwelcome, and so it’s important to be really careful about it.

sometimes abstract discussions are not appropriate

If someone is telling you about a bad situation they’re in, or something they’re upset about, it’s probably not a good time to launch into an abstract discussion of something tangentially related.

For instance:

  • Jane: My coworkers keep hitting on me. It’s really getting to be a problem.
  • Bill: Well, hitting on people can be very important.

Likewise, when someone wants support for a bad thing that happened, that is probably not a good time to have an abstract conversation with them about the nature of the words they’re using.

For instance:

  • Bruce: This is such an awful work schedule. My boss keeps telling me it doesn’t matter because we’re doing such awesome things. He’s so freaking invested in his privilege.
  • Leo: I don’t know that I’d call that privilege. I mean, obnoxiousness sure, but I’m not seeing the privilege. Doesn’t privilege mean being part of a privileged group? How’s your boss privileged?

Bill and Leo might be right, but what they’re saying isn’t appropriate in context. They’re changing the subject to make it about something else they want to discuss in an abstract way, rather than listening to the problem the person is actually talking about.

That’s obnoxious. (And it’s different from calling people on bad things they do, which can be important too. This subject-change to an abstract topic rather than the problem at hand is a different thing than saying “hey, you’re saying something messed up here”.)