Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Kirby: Predictable behavior only widens rifts

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Jan 12 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jan 24 2014 04:09 pm

In fourth grade, I liked a popular girl named Sandy. She didn’t like me. Big surprise, I know, but I hadn’t yet become the sophisticated bon vivant you read today.

Sandy hung out with the cool crowd during recess. Much as I tried to get her to notice me, she acted like I wasn’t even alive.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

I couldn’t stand not being on her radar, so one day I hit her in the head with a horse-manure clod.

Not a big one. I wasn’t trying to kill her. I just wanted her to notice me. It worked. When she went crying to the teacher, Sandy’s girl posse chased me into a stairwell and noticed me senseless.

Mrs. Hall also noticed that I needed some recess detention. Finally, Sandy’s male admirers waited until after school to notice that I fit handily into a cafeteria garbage can.

Wandering home covered in scratches and spoiled milk, it occurred to me that I might need to change my approach. It’s one thing to be noticed and another to have a healthy interaction.

Sandy and I had a relationship after that. For the rest of the year, her name for me was "Yuck," as in "Yuck, go away!" or "Yuck is looking at me again."

It took years (I’m slow), but eventually I developed a theory that constructive human interaction can never be established in an offensive manner. People from whom you want understanding — or just a moment of time — don’t respond well to conversations opened with horse manure.

It wasn’t just hurting a person’s head that shut down any chance of dialogue, but also their feelings. Conversations begun with insult rarely go any further than that, and if they do it’s generally pointless.

For example, let someone know you think they’re fat and ugly and that’s all they’ll ever hear you say. Say it to their face and it could be the last coherent thing you say for the rest of the day. I learned that one in the fifth grade.


story continues below
story continues below

I’ve tried to think of a single time when my mind was changed through insult. I got nothing. Most of the time it had exactly the opposite effect on me. Hmm, maybe that’s how I ended up here.

Would it work on you? Anyone ever change your mind, faith, politics, favorite color, etc., by calling you names or belittling your intelligence?

A better question is, have you ever tried it on someone else? Didn’t work, did it? There’s nothing that makes the rift wider quite like you proving that you’re every bit as horrible as they suspected.

So why do people do it? If we know offensive behavior doesn’t work, why do we go there? It could be that insult is entirely the point. If you can’t change a person’s mind, why not insult them? That’ll get them thinking, right?

Maybe we do it because it fills some deep emotional need. It is possible to be highly educated, socially powerful, deeply religious and still only be 10 years old emotionally.

Lots of people never get past the fourth grade. You only need to take a stroll around the Internet to figure that out. It’s like recess out there, but with no playground monitors.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.