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Right? Perfect!

By Shari Crall

Have you noticed our current need for validation in our speech? Like what I just did there – elicited your agreement? I did it again.

Conversations are now punctuated with a pause, followed by, “right?” One can be explaining, commenting, even describing when they pause and say, “Right?” I find myself nodding, and then afterward thinking, “Wait, I don’t think that’s right.”

Caught off guard, I am suddenly complicit. I find myself surreptitiously recruited to a team or a viewpoint or to confirm the best way to whip heavy cream is to add some cream of tartar, even if I have no idea how to whip cream. There is the “right” with the tonal lilt eliciting a nod, but there is also the statement “right,” carrying the sentence forward as obvious, and taking me along for the ride.

I had a client who punctuated her sentences with, “Does that make sense?” She was a teacher and what was useful with her students didn’t translate well to our discussions. It took me a while, but I finally fell out of her trance and said, “No, that does not make sense.” I felt bad because I was trapped into the more personal rebuttal that she did not make sense when all I really wanted to do was give feedback or share information or a different way to look at the issue.

I used to be able to listen passively but now agreement is required. I find myself floating off into ethical dilemmas during conversations. Do I think it is right? Does it makes sense? Maybe I need to think about it more or maybe I think it is more nuanced that “right” and “sense” or maybe I’ve never even heard of it before and have no idea if it is right or makes sense. This is a lot of pressure just talking about a recipe or an activity, let alone a political or religious opinion.

Could this be the habits of our digital communication desperately seeking humanity? The verbal equivalent of getting and needing likes and heart emoticons and smiley faces? Are we craving attachment? You have a need (to know if what you are saying is “right”), I meet that need (nod), you feel supported (oxytocin), I feel supportive of you (oxytocin), we have a connection.

Then there is the other ubiquitous verbal validation these days – “perfect.”

“I’ll have a whopper, large fries, and diet coke.” No need for calorie guilt here because the voice over the speaker says, “perfect.” I make an appointment to get my teeth cleaned for Wednesday. “Perfect,” the receptionist says, noticing and complimenting I’m sure, my organizational skills. I show up innocuously at the name tag table and tell them my name. “Perfect,” they notice, handing me my name tag.

With perfect, rather than extracting validation in nodding something is right, I am blissfully bestowed. Everything is perfect. Thumbs up. Smiley face. Heart.

#Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

About Shari Crall

Shari Crall is a native of the Chicago suburbs. She has lived her adult life in Southern California where she raised four children with her husband Chris. She recently retired from a career in social work. She holds a BA in political science from BYU and an MSW from SDSU. She spent over a decade writing a column for her local newspaper, titled The Crall Space. She has blogged for Segullah for several years and been published in LDS outlets like Exponent II, a BYU Women's Conference collection, and most recently in Living on the Inside of the Edge by author Christian Kimball.

2 thoughts on “Right? Perfect!”

  1. Oh, you are making a keen observation.

    I'm focused in the affirm direction right now. My Word of the Year is "Witness." I have 6 years of training in grad school in rhetoric. My habit is to challenge and to assert myself. But now I'm trying to balance that out by acknowledging others' point of view.

    (But can you see how I just argued with you? I'm hopeless.)

    Thanks for sharing your perspective, Shari!

    Reply
  2. I have noticed the "perfect" when answering questions. Its the new thing. I think when someone is entering data and asking questions, they want to acknowledge that you spoke. Otherwise the patient/customer is left wondering if they were heard, because someone is typing away not looking at them.
    As for the "Does that make sense?" I say that sometimes. What I mean is "Do you understand?" Please acknowledge that you understand me. This is important when you deal with other people who have ADHD, are kids, etc. You just need some feedback that they have understood what you have said!
    If people are asking "Does that make sense?" and "Right?" maybe they just need you to say that you have heard them. You can repeat back to them. "So you feel like it it would be more fair if your coworker was the one who had to go in at 5:00 am instead of you." "So from your persepective, opening schools will help disadvantaged students and that is your priority." You don't have to agree with the statement, just acknowledge that you have understood what she was trying to convey.
    If you have conversations with women, they may be marginalized in what they say in their marriages, in conversations involving men, etc. So they may feel more sensitive in wanting to be understood. On the flip side, they may be more socialized to avoid saying "We should do X and Y" when in a work meeting and instead say, "It might be better to do X and Y, don't you think?" because speaking more directly gets backlash even though it is subconsciously done by men.

    Reply

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