words

“blaming others”

“Take responsibility for your life and stop blaming others” is the kind of phrase that is sometimes really important and also sometimes dangerously misleading.

It’s important to take responsible for things that are within your control. Taking responsibility is about accurately assessing situations, and deciding what to do about them within the options you have.

Unfortunately, when people say “stop blaming others and take responsibility for your life,” they’re not always talking about assessing things accurately. Sometimes what they’re doing is trying to convince you to assume that everything you’re experiencing is always your fault; and that you could always make everything better if you just made better choices.

There are *some* situations in which it’s actually the case *in that particular situation* that blaming others is holding someone back. In those situations, it often *is* possible to fix things by making better choices. It’s important to recognize those situations when they arise. It’s not a remotely good idea to assume that all situations are like that.

Sometimes things are your fault. Sometimes they’re someone else’s fault. Sometimes it’s a mixture of both. In order to take responsibility for your actions, it’s important to realistically assess what’s going on. Sometimes that means noticing that other people are causing problems.

In order to be responsible, it’s important to evaluate what’s actually going on. Assuming that everything is always your fault won’t help.

A way you might be inadvertently sounding dismissive

Neutral-ish words like “Uh huh”, “ok”, and “sure” can sometimes sound like they mean “this is boring and I want you to stop talking about it”.

For example:

  • Matilda: My cat just had kittens! They are adorable!
  • Shira: Uh huh

This could sound to Matilda like Shira means “I’m annoyed that you’re talking about your cats and would like you to stop.”

If Shira actually wants to listen to Matilda talk about the cats but isn’t sure what to say, repeating part of what Matilda said might be a better option, eg:

  • Matilda: My cat just had kittens! They are adorable!
  • Shira: Your cat had kittens?!
  • Matilda: Yes, she did. Last week.

Another option is to say explicitly that you want to hear about it, eg:

  • Matilda: My cat just had kittens! They are adorable!
  • Shira: Tell me about your adorable new kittens?

This isn’t an exhaustive list; there are any number of other examples in both directions. But if you’re saying things that you think are neutral and it seems to result in other people ending the conversation a lot, it’s worth considering whether you’re inadvertently sending off linguistic signals that you’re bored.

disneysmermaids:

cherribalm:

site that you can type in the definition of a word and get the word

site for when you can only remember part of a word/its definition 

site that gives you words that rhyme with a word

site that gives you synonyms and antonyms

disneysmermaids said:

THAT FIRST SITE IS EVERY WRITER’S DREAM DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY TIMES I’VE TRIED WRITING SOMETHING AND THOUGHT GOD DAMN IS THERE A SPECIFIC WORD FOR WHAT I’M USING TWO SENTENCES TO DESCRIBE AND JUST GETTING A BUNCH OF SHIT GOOGLE RESULTS

On the right to communicate

all-women-kick-ass asked realsocialskills:
is the word “stupid” ableist? I keep trying to explain to people that it’s a really important word for a really important concept but I can’t seem to put into words WHAT exactly that concept is.


realsocialskills said: 

 I don’t think “stupid” is an ableist word, and I’ve also been struggling to explain why. At some point I’ll write about that in more detail. I have not yet been able to do so, so this is not that post. But I want to address something else that I see in your question. I think that, to an extent, what you are asking is more along the lines of:

  • Everyone is telling me a word I use is a bad word
  • I have something to say that I think is important
  • I can’t say it without using that word
  • And I can’t explain why that word is important
  • And people are upset with me
  • Is it ok for me to keep using the word anyway, or should I shut up about the thing until I can explain why I need that word?

And my answer here is:  

 I think that it is almost never a good idea to give up using a word that you feel like you need. I think you should probably keep using that word, unless you are able to find an alternative that still allows you to communicate the concept that is important to you. 

 Sometimes when people feel overly attached to a bad word because they are attached to expressing the bigotry associated with that word. If you’re worried that might be the case with you, work on addressing that. If that’s the problem, becoming less bigoted will probably make you less inclined to use the word anyway. If you stay bigoted, changing the word you use is unlikely to help. 

 You can’t avoid this issue by just saying that you don’t mean it that way. It has to actually be true. And, if you’re using a word that a lot of people object to, it’s worth considering whether you’re actually saying something worse than you think you’re saying. 

 That said, sometimes bigotry or hatred has nothing to do with why you feel like you need a word other people want you to stop saying. Sometimes you feel like you need the word *because you actually do*. Take that possibility seriously; don’t let people pressure you out of communicating.  And, as you consider these things, keep in mind the difference between basic morality and personal piety.

 There may be worthwhile attempts to move away from certain words that you are not in a position to participate in, because you might not be able to give up those words without damaging your communication. I think that people should use whatever words they need to use in order be able to communicate. 

Words matter. But communication matters more. Don’t give up words you depend on to communicate clearly lightly.

For the sake of vocabulary-building

What are some good words that are either:

  • Swears (eg: fuck)
  • Not-quite-swears that are clearly substitutes for actual cussing (eg: exclaiming fudge or sugar, saying something stinks instead of saying it sucks, etc) 
  • Clean insult words/phrases (“go step on legos”, asinine)

These are important words, and I know y'all know some I don’t.

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.

It takes more than etymology to make a slur

Do you think words with etymologies based on oppression (like “idiot” or “hysterical”) but are no longer used that way now should be considered slurs? Do you think most people consider them slurs? I’ve heard some compelling arguments for why they should be treated like slurs, but I’ve also heard some good reasons for why they shouldn’t be, and it’s all very confusing.
realsocialskills answered:
I don’t think etymology is important. I think what’s important is how a word is used.
If something is used as a slur, then it’s a slur even if it has a neutral etymology. (People try to argue that the r-word isn’t a slur because it literally just means slow. Those people are wrong.)
If something is not used as a slur, then it’s not one even if it has an etymology based on oppression or hate. (For instance: “autism” has an etymology based on dehumanizing autistic people, but it’s not a slur.)
This gets complicated because sometimes people will claim that something “isn’t a slur anymore” even when it clearly is. If people the word is used against think it’s still a slur, then it’s a slur even if some people think they “don’t mean it that way”. (The g-word is a good example of this.)
I think that there are also words that are somewhat tainted by oppressive etymologies or connotations. It can be worthwhile to personally try to avoid using those words. (I avoid some, but not all, tainted words for that reason). But it’s dangerous to treat these words as actually being the same as slurs. One reason it’s important not to do this is that it causes serious problems for people with language disabilities. This is a good example of the importance of understanding the difference between personal piety and basic morality.

Rhetorical might doesn't make right

Not knowing how to articulate something doesn’t mean you are wrong.

Being elequoent doesn’t mean you are right.

Making someone look stupid doesn’t mean you are right.

Words are tools. They aren’t everything. They aren’t all of knowledge either.

So if someone tells you something that sounds plausible, and they’ve articulated it well, you still might know they are wrong even if you have no words for it.

They might try to intimidate you into agreeing by insisting that if you can’t give a clear explicit answer, then you must just be too irrational to accept a valid argument. But, it doesn’t work that way. Knowing something is not the same as knowing how to use words to describe that thing.

Words are very useful tools for communication. But being good at words just means being good at words. Don’t conflate it with being right, being insightful, or being exceptionally rational. Those are separate issues.

The word “institution”

In a disability context, “institution” means something like “an organization that keeps disabled folks separate from mainstream society and under the control of others”.

It used to be fairly common practice for families (under great pressure from doctors and state authorities) to send their disabled children to residential institutions and then have no further relationship with them. That’s fallen out of favor in the past couple of decades, but a lot of the underlying power dynamics remain in service providers in other settings.

For instance, group homes are often referred to as being “living in the community” rather than “institutions”, but they also often have identical power dynamics.

Similarly, some places will say that they are not institutions but are rather “intentional communities” or some sort of utopian village because they are farms and cottages rather than big harshly lit buildings. But again, they have the same power dynamics.

The power dynamics can be hard to spot if you don’t know how to look for them, because a lot of institutions will go out of their way to pretend they’re doing something fundamentally different.

Something about words

skiesofpluto:

realsocialskills:

Sometimes when you think you don’t understand something, it’s because people are using long intellectual words to make you think they are saying more than they are.

This is particularly common in academic writing, and in ideological writing that makes use of academic conventions.

skiesofpluto said:

Sometimes people don’t realize they’re using obscure language and terms because they’re so used to using them, also. When you’re in academia you spend a lot of time associating with other people who also know those field-specific words, and you may use them automatically without remembering that most people don’t understand them.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, sometimes people are just using technical terms and assuming a certain degree of background knowledge. And there are contexts in which there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I’m talking about something different. I’m talking about when people *aren’t* actually doing that, but rather using words in a way that makes it *sound* like they are doing that.

When the words aren’t supporting the argument, but saying “you’re stupid if you don’t understand this,” as a way to avoid actually making the argument rigorously. 

Both are real things.

Where slurs come from

Slurs have power because of how they’re used and what it evokes when someone says them. Not because groups have decided to be offended by them. Target groups don’t give slurs power; the weight of historical and current use gives them power.

Words mean things.

The n-word is a slur because it has always been used to say that black people aren’t really human and to incite violence. That is what that word means when it’s said by someone who isn’t black. You can’t say that word as a nonblack person without invoking that meaning to some extent or other, even if you don’t mean to. That’s not a meaning black people give the word. That’s a meaning that white people created.

Likewise the r-word, especially in noun form. (It’s not always a slur in adjective form, but it always evokes the slur a bit, so it’s better to use a different word if you can). It’s a slur because what it means is someone who isn’t really a whole person because their brain doesn’t work right. That’s not a meaning folks with disabilities are imagining in order to feel offended, and it’s not a meaning they can get away from by deciding not to be offended.

Calling someone a slur means something. It’s a threat. And an implied threat to other people in that group.

Other people can feel how they want about it, but how they feel won’t erase the fact that someone saying a slur is making a threat. Feelings don’t erase violence and threats of violence.

Some things about speech

Sometimes people have speech at some times, but not others.

Sometimes people have very fluid fluent speech sometimes, and choppy forced slow speech at other times.

Sometimes when people can’t speak, or have trouble speaking, it’s because something is wrong. Sometimes it’s because they’re stressed, or overloaded, or forgot how because they’re frozen and need help getting unfrozen. Or because they’ve pushed themselves too far and are just too exhausted to function.

But losing speech, or losing fluent speech, is not always like that. Being in a mode where speech is difficult or impossible is not always a sign that something is going wrong. For some people, that’s just a mode they can be in, sometimes.

It can mean they are prioritizing different things, putting more resources into thinking rather than speaking. It can mean they are in a more sensory mode rather than a WORDS WORDS WORDS mode. It can mean they’re interacting, and that it’s about presence and not conversation. Or any number of other things.

To make a somewhat flawed analogy: People don’t usually speak during movies. When people aren’t speaking during movies, it’s not because something is wrong. It’s because they’re doing a different thing.

It’s important to know that both of these things exist. That sometimes lack of speech or difficult speech means something is wrong, but sometimes it means something is right.

geasseeker:

Social skills for autonomous people: maaoh: the-real-seebs: realsocialskills: Anonymous asked: Is it wrong…

maaoh:

the-real-seebs:

realsocialskills:

Is it wrong for me, as a neurotypical person (AFAIK, there have been hints that I might have something undiagnosed), to use terminology coigned by atypical people? The way f’example stimming and…

Sensory overload also happens for me with PTSD. When I was at Sheppard Pratt, my psychiatrist said it’s something she sees a lot in trauma patients.

Is it wrong for me, as a neurotypical person (AFAIK, there have been hints that I might have something undiagnosed), to use terminology coigned by atypical people? The way f'example stimming and overloading have been explained to me describe things that I do and the reasons behind them really well, but I don’t know if it’s appropriate for me to call them that.
realsocialskills answered:
Most people who stim a lot and get overloaded a lot are autistic. Most. Not all. Some people with ADHD also experiencing stimming and overload. So do some neurotypical blind people. So do other folks.
Overload and stimming are words that describe particular experiences, not a particular diagnosis.
If you have those experiences, it’s ok to use the words.

Avoiding slurs is not about sanitizing language

andreashettle:

realsocialskills:

Cussing is important. Here are some uses:

  • Expressing boundaries in forceful language
  • Expressing emphatic contempt
  • Expressing distress

Sometimes it’s ok to insult people. Sometimes it’s important to be rude.

Slurs aren’t part of this, though. It’s not ok to insult someone by comparing them to an oppressed group. It’s not ok to insult someone by referencing their membership in an oppressed group.

Lists of things to say rather than “that’s so gay" or “that’s so r-word" tend to be long lists of big words that are clean and polite. They shouldn’t be, though. There’s no moral obligation to use long words. There’s no moral obligation to always use clean language.

The problem with slurs is that they help to keep marginalized groups marginalized. They hurt innocent people, and they hurt guilty people in ways no one deserves.

So, when the situation calls for cussing at or about someone, use swear words. Don’t use slurs.

And if you can’t bring yourself to use swear words, ever, then STILL don’t use slurs. Use it as an opportunity to excercise your brain in creativity in devising insults or other forms of strong or emphatic language without using slurs or any of the swear words you aren’t comfortable with.

Yes. Slurs are *more* obscene than swears, not less.

soundingonlyatnightasyousleep:

realsocialskills:

youneedacat:

Social skills for autonomous people: Non-literal greetings

proudheron:

realsocialskills:

In the US, certain things are ritual greetings that follow a standard script. Deviating from it is considered a bit weird (but it’s also common, and possible to get away with. I deviate from it often).

“How are you?” is not usually intended as a real…

A lot of time the answer to what’s up, is what’s up. You don’t even answer, you just ask the question back.

Oh yeah, I forgot that sometimes you don’t even answer. I remember when that started to be the case - it really weirded me out.

But yes, sometimes the expected answer is just “What’s up" back. Does it bother people when you answer “not much, you?“ and they’re expecting “what’s up?” repeated?

!!!

Is “Watcha doin’?“ a variation of “What’s up?” Because when I’ve been asked “Watcha doin’?“ by people coming up to me I’ve responded with “Talking to you,” which was Not Right judging by their reactions. Now, I respond with “reading/listening to music/whatever I was doing,“ but is that wrong too? 

I think it’s a bit different. I think "watcha doin’?” tends to mean something like this:

  • I would like to interact with you
  • You seem to be doing a thing
  • Can you tell me what the thing is?
  • Maybe that will proving an opening for conversation
  • Or for you to include me in the thing.
  • Let’s interact now?

“Watcha doin’” can be invasive, because sometimes it doesn’t take into account the possibility that someone might be busy and not want to interact. But sometimes it just means “Are you doing an interruptible thing? Can you tell me about it so we can figure out how to interact?”

Listening beyond words

Sometimes, words are misleading. Sometimes, if you only pay attention to words, it can make communication difficult.

Words are approximations, and they don’t mean the same thing to the everyone. Patterns of words can have very, very different connotations for different people. The same words, even the same phrases, can mean radically different things said by different people.

(Even slur words, sometimes. But I’m mostly not talking about those here.)

So you can’t rely on just the words. That’s misleading. A lot of other things matter too.

Part of it is paying attention to what you know about the person. Do their words match what you’d expect them to say? Is there another way of reading those words that matches that person better?

If someone seems to be saying something dramatically out of character, it’s entirely possible that they don’t mean what you expect those words to mean. It can be good to ask. Like, to say that those words seem to say x, did they really mean that, or something else?

In person, paying attention to tone can be helpful. And body language. And what sort of mood they seem to be in. And pauses. Not everyone can use all of these cues, and that’s ok, you don’t have to.

But there’s always more going on than exact literal meanings of words.

Anonymous asked realsocialskills:

I have ADHD and I need to rock and twitch my hands to concentrate. Is it appropriate to call it stimming?  

I think that’s perfectly fine. That’s a really common reason autistic people stim, too. There’s a lot of overlap between ADHD traits and autistic traits.

I think that it’s actually good if we use the same words to describe things that are the same or similar. A lot of groups cross-disability have far more in common than we realize, and I think we could all benefit a lot from sharing concepts and coping mechanisms.

That said, calling it stimming might lead to some awkward situations. It’s a term mostly used by autistic folks. Sometimes when you (in my view accurately) refer to it as stimming, that might cause people to think you’re autistic. That’s something you should be prepared for if you want to start using words that are mostly used to describe autism.

Using Google Images to learn new words

lonelyhapax:

realsocialskills:

Sometimes, especially when you’re learning a foreign language, looking stuff up in a dictionary doesn’t help. Formal definitions can be confusing. (And, for a second language, using the dictionary too much can lead to translating rather than understanding.)

Sometimes looking things up in google images helps more, because then you see lots of pictures of what people familiar with the word think it refers to. (And, especially if you turn safesearch off, it’s useful for figuring out which seemingly innocent words might have sexual or otherwise potentially awkward connotations).

… i highly doubt this would work, has anyone tried it consistently?

because the way i see it, i would expect the results to be straightforward if the concept is concrete and familiar (i.e. objects, places, etc), but not so much if it’s abstract

and if it’s abstract, it’s likely to have the kind of unclear definition we’re trying to avoid

i highly doubt that google would help you understand what these words mean, even if you’re just using this method as a reinforcement with the definition (they’re pretty damn basic in this case)

so… idk, not meaning to sound snarky but it seems rather unhelpful

I use Google Images for this fairly regularly.

It doesn’t work for everything, and it’s definitely not a replacement for dictionaries and things. I look up words more often than I google them.

But for some words, it’s amazingly helpful - and often, when I’m still confused after using dictionaries, google images helps a lot.

(One thing I used it for recently was to figure out which of a few possible words for “accessible” was the one used in the sense relevant to disability).