Opinion: Please Explain Yourself

It is so beautiful out this Saturday, and only 1:38pm. After this draft, I will jump out of my PJs into my overalls and go to the High Line. Actually, I want to see the new Whitney and I am trying to see whether or not I can afford a ticket. Had I not added those first two sentences, you would not know the time I originally wrote this post (which I am publishing on a Sunday morning) and what my thoughts were. Have you come across those cool and seemingly liberating quotes that say something like "learn to say no without explaining yourself"? I remember seeing one and quickly pinning it to my "Coffee" board on Pinterest. Yes, I thought, it would be indeed awesome to not have to explain myself. So I figured I would try it.

Here is the thing, for people who you do not care anything for, maybe it is OK to say no and just walk away. But I found that it tore me apart a little. Maybe because I always feel rejections so deeply, I am a little more sensitive about taking it for granted. I have this theory that the more the world is cruel to me, the more I ought to try and be kinder. I feel that to be cruel too would only make things worse.  Rejections without explanations hurt. They put you into a taunting limbo of prickly assumptions. Why no? Is it you? Is there something you could have done differently to get a yes? How closer were you to a yes? If people keep saying no, some of us eventually learn the reasons on our own, and braver souls learn to ask why.  This is because we cannot read minds.  It is intimidating to ask for anything especially if you are of the mind that no one owes you a thing.  It is a double ache to muster the courage to ask, receive a rejection, inquire the reasons for the rejection and be treated to silence. Yes, you may learn of the reasons in time, but an explanation could help you sort things out so much quicker and put a little balm on your wounded pride. I have come to really appreciate and respect people who do make the effort and take the time to explain themselves. It makes it easier to see where they are coming from or where they stand, and if there is something we can do that will change their negative response to our request, we learn of it and use it to tailor future requests. What I really love about getting an explanation is how humane it feels, when done with empathy. Of course I understand that people are busy, and truth be told, sometimes the way we go about demanding things, the only response we probably deserve is to be ignored.

Explaining ourselves is a form of self-expression and a form of therapy. We all have that which makes sense to us and that which does not. What I think beautiful some people find ugly, and what I find ugly some think stunning. If I do not tell you that what you think beautiful I feel ugly, you may assume we are of the same inclination. For instance, I am not in-love with the architecture of some contemporary museums today. I appreciate their abstract artistry and complexity but the aesthetic I find an eyesore. It is also why I am excited about the new Whitney and I'm actually considering buying a ticket to see it, rather than doing the usual: wait for a moment of miracle of free reception. I like the pictures I have seen of the museum. I love the grunge/industrial look of it. There is something almost ugly about it but with it comes a cheeky attitude that makes it a thing of urbane beauty.


In my efforts to be that cool person who just say no and walk away I found that I suffered. I realized also that it was the need to explain myself that I wanted to get rid of. Why should I break down my actions? Should not a single worded rejection suffice? It was uncomfortable, this feeling of owing someone an explanation. I did not like it and that is why I wanted to do away with it. But once I started trying not to give into the habit of explaining my thinking I became at war with myself. I see now that I was not only explaining myself because I believe I owe it to the other person, I was also doing so because I did not believe I would otherwise be understood. I also hated appearing cold and distant.  It matters to me that others would not think my goal is to be cruel or that I think them unworthy of my time. It may appear uncool or weak, but it is something I hold dear. But there is also  closure in self-explaining. Something I find immensely rewarding. When I would say no and leave it at that, I felt it created a distance I did not care for. In a way I came across as all serious and no-nonsense but in truth I felt burdened and full of nonsense. I was unhappy.

Being truthful too often is selfish. But it is also healthy. You have very little on your shoulders because you let it all out and nothing is left to turn toxic. Here is what I am saying, you can be the sort of person who does not explain yourself. There are already a ton of people out there like that and a lot of people are already accustomed to that sort of attitude. But this trend is taking away from our humanity; especifically our ability to empathize and sympathize with one another. These days, I find that I am surprised when people explain themselves, and not so when people do not. I have programmed myself to think "it is not personal, people are just really really really incredibly busy!" I have come to expect people to be very much absorbed in their own problems and closed off to all others, so that I am immensely grateful when I meet someone who is not like that. The ability to put ourselves into shoes that are not ours is invaluable.  But it is not easy, nor is it always comfortable or cool, and it takes practice, time, and nourishing. It can be very easy to refuse someone but it is incredibly more difficult to tell the person why. In wording why, we make ourselves vulnerable. But in our vulnerability is a link of connection with the other person. Several people are vulnerable at the end of a rejection. There are, however, people who enjoy hurting others through their explanations. It is not enough that they reject you, they must also take pleasure in reducing you into an absolute nada, because in making you feel irrelevant, they feel relevant for three seconds. If you are like that, then please do learn to say no, always, without explaining yourself. Thank you.

In the end I went to the High Line and not to the Whitney because I have already gone over my budget for this month. Maybe I can make it next month. I am excited to see the new home of the American museum. I got a little neat view from the High Line and it will do for now. It is beneficial to learn to say no without explaining ourselves. There are several moments that call for it. And also there are times when we really do not wish to explain ourselves and that is OK. We are, after all, human. But what I am saying is, making it a habit to not explain yourself when you really think and feel that you ought to do so is not healthy. It is admirable to want to explain yourself. It means that you are aware that we do not have direct access to the workings of each others thoughts and in order to be understood and prevent or reduce miscommunication and animosity, and even save a few sensitive souls from jumping off buildings, we must try to explain our decisions, our rejections especially.

-
Jane

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