Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the *rules of engagement* we create in our conversations– within family, online, and in our communities. Especially in intimate spaces and relationships with the people we love, what does it mean when certain issues and experiences can only be discussed in certain terms: kind, calm, personal-but-not-too-emotional, patient, un-blaming… restraints that in the past I have put on loved ones and that I’ve been hurt by loved ones putting on me.
I’ve found that when someone calls me out for making a mistake (and I make them often) if I listen carefully to my defensiveness, often I find it’s me that needs to do the work to deal with my hurt feelings, educate myself, and change. Discomfort can be a meaningful teaching tool– and it can create damaging power relationships to ask the people who are calling us out to do the labor of managing our hurt feelings.
If you’re keen, here’s a couple links on tone policing and emotional labor.
(note that the links below contain descriptions of racism, abuse, gender violence)
What We Can All Learn From Nicki Minaj Schooling Miley Cyrus on Tone Policing (good basic intro to tone policing)
What’s the Harm in Tone Policing? (a shorter summary piece on tone policing)
No, I Still Won’t Be A Magic “Race Tutor” For Demanding Whites (on the responsbility to “teach” about race)