I’m always hesitant to use quotations. The use of quotation marks indicates that the words in between them are a verbatim retelling of what someone said (at least that’s one use). For any of you that have played the telephone game, you know that repeating what someone said can be challenging (especially verbatim). Sometimes person A will say to person B, “I want you to leave right now!” When person B retells the story, their perception changes the details. “Basically, person A told me to get the fuck out!”, person B will say. So, I’ve always been wary of direct quotes. The person passing on the details may be filling in the spaces with shades of their own perception. It’s also worth noting that people are often misquoted and those misquotes are repeated often enough to make everyone believe the incorrect version. With that disclaimer on the table, I’d like to paste the quote that sparked this blog.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou
This quote has often annoyed me. (Before anyone misinterprets, I’m not criticizing Maya Angelou. I just dislike the quote.) It’s an unpopular opinion, but no one can make you feel something. We are responsible for our own feelings and we need to have some accountability for that. I once worked for a restaurateur that always said, “perception is reality”. He was referring to the experience of guests in the restaurant. So, by that logic, if they say they waited an hour for a table (despite chronological evidence to the contrary) they waited an hour for a table. When the clock says 20 minutes and the grumbling bellies of people with low blood sugar that have allowed themselves to become hAngry says an hour has passed, perception is perception it is not reality. Because of that hour long wait, the subsequent Yelp review indicates that we made them feel unimportant. While there are many problems with that scenario, I first have to ask who is responsible for their feeling of unimportance? Who is the we in the scenario? We could be the host staff that was stretched thin, the table before them that took a long time to pay their check, the busser that took too long to clean/reset the table, the 3rd person in their party that showed up late (causing a delay in their seating), the list goes on. So, who made them feel unimportant? They did. In a situation like that, 20 different things could have gone smoother and they could have sat down sooner. But, as a former restaurant manager that has been in that situation, I can say that we never intended to make anyone feel unimportant. We all know what’s been said about (good) intentions.
Intentions is an anagram for Tin (as in, easily malleable) Tensions. The argument I’ve had, with more ex-girlfriends than I care to count, went something like this… She: “You made me feel bad.” Me: “Those weren’t my intentions! Doesn’t that count for something?” Of course it didn’t! How else could we pave the road to our private hell were it not for our good intentions? Whenever I hear the, “you made me feel…” argument, my response is always the same. If I had the power to make you feel a specific emotion whenever I wanted, wouldn’t I use that to my advantage and make you feel happy? Further, if the onus of another’s feelings is in the hand (or on the tongue as it were) of the person delivering the emotional catalyst, then that silver-tongued fiend could reap the exact same emotion from a multitude of people from different walks of life. Imagine this, the villain tells the victim something and victim’s feelings are hurt. The villain then conducts a sociological experiment and delivers the exact same insult or slur to 27 strangers. Out of the 27 strangers, fewer than 100% have the same response as the initial victim. What does that tell us? Based on life experiences, people respond to things differently. Therefore, the villain can’t be responsible for making them feel. They felt how they felt because of a multitude of circumstances. But, this is worth re-typing, no one can make you feel.
How does this make you feel?
Backstage with Xavier Bailey on the lens.
It is important to mention that circumstances can cause anxiety or other emotions. However, even specific circumstances will only create a visceral response based on your individual experience. Let’s take the dark alley for example. Because of movies, pop culture, urban legends, and reading crime statistics, a dark alley can be frightening. However, if you arrived on this planet yesterday and knew nothing of the dark alley’s reputation, you’d have no fear due to ignorance. (Note: While ignorance may be bliss, what you don’t know can hurt you. Paranoia is bad, self-preservation is a basic instinct. Please don’t read this blog and go hang out in a dark alley like a jack ass.)
It’s worth mentioning that this blog was written for adults that have a base understanding of their own feelings. When it comes to children that are still impressionable and forming their views of the world, it is very possible to make them feel bad, good, otherwise. Emotional and verbal abuse are very real happenings that can change the trajectory of a child’s life. Just because people don’t get arrested for verbal abuse quite as often, doesn’t make it any less scarring.
“Hey, Jet! What about that one time when someone intentionally did something to hurt my feelings!? Isn’t that an example of someone else making me feel some kind of way?” (Quotation marks used with the permission of the imagined dialogue in my head.) Negative intention is a fancy way for saying, dick move. Please remember Wheaton’s Law (“Don’t be a dick.”) If I know that a specific offense will upset the person with whom I speak and I use that offense with the sole intention of making that person feel some kind of (bad) way, yes that makes me the dick. People show you their weaknesses out of trust. If you exploit that trust to hurt their feelings, that is an example of someone making someone else feel something. Or is it? When I was younger a bully found out I was ticklish. He tickled me every goddamned time he saw me and he was twice my size! So, one day I just switched it off. I stopped allowing myself to be ticklish. I made the decision to feel differently about that particular effort of his to control me. 20+ years later and I’m still not ticklish. No one can make you feel. You all know how strongly I feel about the Four Agreements. One of the most important is to never take anything personally. That’s another way of saying, don’t let the words/actions of others determine your feelings. I’ll leave you with another quote about being made to feel. Whether this quote is accurately credited or not, WhoTF knows. I just know that I agree with it passionately.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
Street art in Oakland designed to make you feel (good).