That sick-to-your-stomach feeling

Do you ever hear something or read something, in the midst of a conversation, that makes you immediately feel sick to your stomach. That sort of indescribable, ‘I can’t believe they just said that’ something. You know, the type of thing that gets slipped into conversation or hidden in a paragraph. It goes by quickly, but when you are done listening/reading you feel. just. wrong. You question if it was actually said. Sometimes you can’t even identify what it was that bothered you. Some times you can.

Sometimes it is subtle hint of an ‘ism’, be it racism, sexism, ageism, sexual-orientation-ism or classicism (I am sure there are more isms). Sometimes it is just a blatant assumption made with what seems like a lack of information. Sometimes it is a pet peeve or a touchy subject or an opinion you strongly disagree with. Sometimes it is watching someone else get subtly bullied. Sometimes it is a tone of self-righteouness, self aggrandizement, entitlement or condescension. Whatever it is, it might not be obvious at first, but you still feel wrong.

Whenever this happens to me it always throws me into this inner turmoil of “do I say something or do I not say something.” Sometimes I just react- blurt out a reaction. I am mostly like to do this online, as I express myself (and deal with confrontation) better in writing then in speech. Sometimes this satisfies my need to “stand up.” But sometimes it makes the situation worse and makes me feel even more wrong. When we react quickly, we don’t always say the right thing.

Furthermore, sometimes saying something really does no good. We have this concept of ‘standing up’ for people and things we believe in. Particularly in the case of my example above of ‘isms,’ I wholeheartedly believe that we must say something. At the same time, more and more, I am realizing how difficult it is to persuade someone to change a mind set or belief by confrontation. Then negativity brought about by confrontation only shuts down the lines communication. It makes sense really; right or wrong, if my back is up against the wall in an argument, it is hard to back down and save face. I think when most of us feel threatened by confrontation we tend to be defensive, rather then listening to what someone says. So does ‘shaming’ someone really do anything? Particularly because sometimes, especially in the case of calling someone out for something less clear cut then an ‘ism’, like a tone of condescension for example, the person who stands up and says something can end up looking like just as much of a bully and an ass as the original offender. So what do you do?

On the other hand, there have been times where I have said nothing and then could not stop thinking about it for days. Running through the situation over and over in my head and ‘rehearsing’ what I should have said. This happens more often in those in person conversations, where sometimes you don’t really realize how much what was said bothers you until you have a moment to process, at which point the time to respond has past.  Or you, like me, just can’t muster the courage for an in person confrontation, at least one you aren’t prepared for ahead of time. For me, there is an ‘icky’ feeling that goes along with this option too. Sure, there was no confrontation and no risk of looking like an ass, but it just doesn’t sit right. I am not the type of person that likes to let things go unsaid. I just don’t. I do think there is value in challenging beliefs and opinions that I disagree with. There is value in debate. However, something said in passing is different then something said in the context of a mutual agreed upon discussion or debate.

I am not sure why I am sharing this all. I guess because I wonder what everyone else thinks. Do you ‘take a stand’ when you feel that you or someone else has been ‘wronged’ in a conversation? Or do you tend to walk away? How do you decide when to do which and how do you feel about which one you tend to do more often? Just wondering……


4 responses to “That sick-to-your-stomach feeling

  1. Megan July 14, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I’m pretty sure I know what you’re talking about due to our messaging through Twitter.

    If it makes you feel any better, I was prepared for more obnoxious lactavist douchery on my post, so when that comment came in, it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.

    I know you’re also talking about the issue of speaking up vs. staying quiet in general, but if the comment on my post had anything to do with your discomfort, just know that I’m okay, and I’m not letting her get to me or make me feel guilty in any way. 🙂

    • amoment2think July 15, 2010 at 11:26 am

      No worries Megan- I wasn’t worried about you, your tough– but I was responding to my reaction reading that comment you got. I think the person had the best of intentions, is probably a very caring person and was just trying to help. She likely didn’t realize that to an outside reader some of what she said had a kinda offensive tone. But I think her intentions were good, so I felt like it would be jerky of me to say anything. So I decided to just ignore it.

      But I seem to keep on coming up against this issue OVER and OVER again in just about all areas of my life. And I really wonder how others deal with it– because I have found myself really questioning what the best approach is…

  2. Ginger July 15, 2010 at 11:43 am

    This is something I struggle with too. I tend to get it a lot more online than in real life, and I’m always at a loss of whether I want to “get into it” or just gloss over it and keep supporting/encouraging/answering the original post. I feel like a wimp for admitting that, but I’m very non-confrontational (it tends to make me momentarily stupid in addition, so I just end up sputtering and never really eloquently making my point).
    I don’t necessarily like that about myself though.

    • amoment2think July 15, 2010 at 4:21 pm

      I think most people are uncomfortable with confrontation. I have a tendency to say what I think, but I often also feel very nervous when I say something.

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