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