This archived article was written by: CJ Evans
I find that within the first 10 seconds of a conversation, you can usually tell if they’re a moron or not. Where you go once you reach that realization is up to your personality. Are you the type of person who kindly smiles and waits until they’re out of sight before laughing at every idiotic statement they made? Or maybe you’re a jerk who is able to look that person in the eye and say, “Oh, you’re one of those. I’m going to stop talking to you now and go set my brain on fire.”
Regardless of your decision to laugh at their face or their back, by deciding that this person has nothing to offer, you saved yourself not only time, but effort as well. It’s called a filtering device, or a snap judgment. Everybody has that, it’s programmed into us from birth. The problem arises when we decide that we don’t want to hear anymore, a perfectly valid argument. The results are something like this….
#3 “Get a Life”
Time to think back on the last online game you played. If you’re anything like me, you were cleaning house, kicking butt and taking names and it’s obvious to everyone that your opponents aren’t that great. Instead of taking the loss, they let lose homophobic slurs sour enough to curdle milk. Once you win, you notice that the one spotting his mouth off is the player with the lowest kills. And since you’re flushed from your recent victory, you help the guy out by encouraging him to actually learn how to play the game before he moans about it.
But what does he do? Instead of thanking you for your advice, he takes it up a notch saying “[expletive] you [homophobic slur] at least I have a life. Of course, you’re going to win when all you do is live in your parent’s basement playing this game and [graphic homophobic and racial combo insult].” And just like that, before you can finish throwing up what you’ve just been force fed, he’s gone; disappeared into the online gaming universe never to cross paths with you again.
Why we hear it: even in situations where everyone is doing the exact same thing as you this argument suggests that the other person does nothing besides this specific activity. Sick of having friends that look like they could tear the head off a bull? Say they need to get a life outside of the gym. Now while my example comes from an online interaction, that doesn’t mean you can’t observe it in your day-to-day life. After all, the “get a life” comment is just a fancy dismissal to say “at least I spend my time on things that matter.”
#2 “You need to straighten
out your priorities”
Picture a high school boy. He needs the car for a date and figured that eating someplace other than McDonalds would be a pleasant change of pace. But, when he asks his dad for a quick loan and the keys, the dad scowls a little as before finally reaching a decision. What is his answer? Certainly nothing to do with the son’s date, instead he does a complete turn around and asks how his son’s grade in math is looking. When he finds out that the grade is less than he would prefer, he kindly suggests that maybe it’s a better idea for his son to set his priorities straight and study all weekend long.
Why we hear it: for some people, it’s hard to put themselves in another person’s shoes. Just the thought of it makes them cringe. That’s why I use the father/son example. The lesson isn’t that teenagers are picked on and abused just because their parent’s think they need to focus on schooling, instead it’s to show that the two have completely different priorities because they are in completely different times of their lives. The dad’s world revolves around work money and performance so it’s only natural that his priorities would reflect that. The son, on the other hand, his life begins and ends with what girls think of him.
So in order for the dad to escape an agonizing argument, in which he might remember that one of the reasons boys go to school, in fact why he went to school, is to socialize and learn how to date, he simplifies his son. His son is a student, has been and always will be. Nothing more or less and as a result, he should be concerned about getting good enough grades to get into college and get a good job. Anything that doesn’t fall into line with that is frivolous. By doing this, a person is able to block out any and all priorities another may have that fall outside that chosen category. It’s the best way of saying “what you’re saying doesn’t matter because on my list of things to worry about, there are seven topics that take precedence. Once those are taken care of, then we can worry about your thing.” And since those top seven will never be completed, congratulations, you have successfully buried one more conversation.
#1 “He’s an idiot”
You’re at the library minding your business when suddenly someone walks in and starts talking politics loud enough for the entire place to hear. You manage to shrug it off for a while, but it eventually occurs to you that he has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. With that decision, you set off to help him understand his faulty logic, being careful to be quiet as you are in a library after all. Fifteen minutes into the conversation, both of you are reaching for the nearest chair leg, planning on providing a quick and painful death to the other.
Those who manage to resist the urge to join in the madness, generally end the debate with a condescending, “you actually believe that? Huh, that’s cute.” With that, you’ve successfully blown every prior comment out of the water by letting every person within earshot know, “I’m no longer listening to anything your saying. Right now, while you’re speaking, all I hear is that newest trendy song.”
Why we do it: beliefs aren’t just knowledge. They’re something that has been hardwired into our body and mind since birth. They measure and determine every action, reaction, decision, judgment and plan. It takes decades to install something that complex, so when someone comes up with an opposing belief its like they’re trying to re-program your entire life up to this point. The best defense to this is for the brain to decide that those external ideas, the ones trying to rewrite you, are simply too stupid to even allow inside.
We’ve been using these dismissals for so long that we’ve lost sight of what we’re saying when we use them. To some people saying, “get a life” is no longer a dismissal; it’s an actual argument with valid points that can’t be ignored by others. I’d like to think that we could stop doing it and actually be able to have a conversation with someone with opposing views, but I think it may have been ingrained in us for too long. At least we’ll be able to catch ourselves now right? Just for this week, try counting every time you use one of these dismissals, I think you’ll be surprised.