Just Jokes

Something specific did happen to me that inspired this post, but I don't want to detail it because I don't want to get lost (again) in the details of how it made me feel (which was really pretty shitty). I want to focus on the larger thing at play.

I've had two consistent feelings about the way we joke with each other and the way we communicate how we feel.

1) People don't say things they don't mean; people do sometimes say things they didn't mean for you to know they felt. In other words, you believe that really terrible thing you said is true, you just maybe didn't intend for me to hear it, or you loss control of your tact and it came tumbling out, but it was something you've always thought.

2) A lot of truth is said in jest. Think about your favorite comedian. They find humor in every day life. They don't go make up things that don't have a basis in truth somewhere -- that's part of what makes it funny -- it's a thing that happens to everybody.

I've definitely been guilty of saying something hurtful to someone and trying to fix it by saying I was just joking. Sometimes I really did mean it to be funny, but that doesn't -- despite what I might've wanted to imply -- mean I didn't feel that the statement was true.

And so when people say really sucky things to me, about me, whether they say it with a light tone, qualify it as a joke or suddenly tell me they "didn't mean it..." I may laugh and nod along as if I've erased it from my mind, but I haven't. I remember it. I watch for the actions that further confirm that you meant it and more often than not, I have found my belief to be true.

This isn't to suggest we should all just go hard with how we feel or what we think. I believe there's a time and place for everything and sometimes your raw feelings don't have a place outside of your head. But I do believe in owning what you say and dealing with the consequences of that.

Moving to a primarily text-based communication style has also impacted this. There is no tone in an email. We talk about tone - "I didn't like the tone of his email," is a frequent phrase I hear. The truth is the only tone in an email is the tone we assign it when we read it. We draw on assumptions about the person, perhaps based in personal knowledge of them, their emotions at the time of writing it, the purpose of their words and there's also a little bit of how "we would sound" if we had written a similar email.

For me, I also add on the fact that unlike words you say and can't take back, you have the time to write an email or a text message, read it and then send it. In my mind an email (somewhat moreso than a text) oughta be exactly what you wanted me to read -- you had the opportunity to edit it, and this was ultimately what you wanted me to see. That only adds to the weight of the words for me. You really can't take those back, imo.

We have to be more careful with our words. We have to think more highly of our own power via words and start to use them more wisely. Everything we say (or write) won't always be nice or friendly and that isn't the goal. Our words should always have purpose -- even if it's just to make someone laugh. Even in that case, though, it shouldn't be reckless. We should think not only of what we mean but what we expect the other person to think when they read our words. We should strive to be clear (something I fail at consistently -- a lot of times on purpose) and honest when we talk to people, especially those closest to us. We should respect ourselves and the recipients of our thoughts enough to think about it first.

That's all I'm saying.

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