Sometimes weasels wear camouflage.
I don’t mean the little furry suckers; instead, I mean brain weasels.
I realized this the other day when I was in an argument. I said this via text (yes, I screw up and don’t follow my own rules sometimes):
Wait, are you actually saying that you want a live elephant to eat salmon from my anus?
Okay, I didn’t say that. I was reflecting back what I thought I heard from the other person.
What I thought I read was something almost as out of character as the bit about the elephant. (Almost.)
I was double checking that I understood correctly, because I didn’t think they were the sort of person who would say what I think I heard. I would be as incredulous if Chef Ramsey said a Big Mac was the height of culinary arts, or Heidi Klum expressed her admiration for the fashion sense of “granny panties”, or if Oderus Urungus had said they preferred the Osmonds to Slayer.
You get the idea.
When, later, in person, I said “I was just smashing a weasel – I was pretty sure that what I heard was not what you meant,” the other person told me I should have said exactly that. That I should have explicitly pointed out that I was weasel-busting.
They were right. In an ideal world, I should have explicitly labeled the weasel-busting as such. In a situation wheres tempers are already running high, it’s especially important.
But I didn’t. Because this isn’t a perfect world, and I am not a perfect person.
Instead of sounding like I was checking, or that I was disbelieving of what I thought I heard, I ended up sounding accusatory.
Instead of making things better, it made things worse.
The text response I received could be summarized like this: “How DARE you think that of me?!?!?!!”
My mistake alone probably added an hour to the argument.
I’m willing to take the blame for my screw-up; at the same time, this gets back to another thing that I tell folks:
Assume that I’m clueless or stupid.
By that, I mean that if I say something that seems really mean or insensitive, the odds are extremely good that I didn’t intend to be mean. The far more likely scenario is that I misunderstood a vital bit of information, or that I’m being absolutely clueless and don’t realize what is going on.
That’s not to say that I should always get a “pass” – I can be a sanctimonious, pretentious, snooty jerk sometimes.
But it does mean that hopefully others would make the same assumption that I did: Saying something that mean is out of character for me. Hopefully, they would also smash a weasel – either explicitly, or just by saying “Did you really mean to say I am that big of a jerk????”
At that point, both people in the conversation will have gotten a cue that something was off. That the weasels were starting to take over, and were ready to eat people’s faces off. (As weasels do.) And hopefully, at least one person would be shocked enough to say “Whoa, whoa, no!” and derail the argument back into a reasonable discussion. (Or at least enough to insist that everyone drop to voice.)
As I’ve been discovering a lot lately, getting better at life – and relationships – is about setting up roadblocks between you and your own worst behaviors. Particularly when you’re not at your best.
So maybe next time your significant other(s) say something that sounds completely out there, check with them.
And if your significant other(s) think you said or did something completely out of character for you, stop and make sure to strip the camouflage right off that weasel.
Featured Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash