The conversation wasn’t really that important, but it was fun. We had gotten into the discussion of whether we should incorporate Trump and Clinton piñatas into the event we were planning. Some of us thought it would be fun, and didn’t imagine anyone would get offended. Others warned that we would be stirring up negative thoughts that had no place at our event. We batted around the pros and cons for a few minutes when I finally heard someone say, “Whatever…”
That one phrase completely shut down the discussion. We stopped right there in our tracks. No decision was reached. No plans were made. We had reached the end of dialogue rope because someone finally uttered “whatever.” That ugly word gives veto power to anyone in the circle. It nullifies and dismisses. It erases movement and causes instant gridlock. I can’t stand being “whatevered.”
What makes that word so powerful is that it is so dismissive. It dismisses any progress made in collaborative conversation. It dismisses reason and the power of group learning. It dismisses engagement and concern. It basically says “I quit. I’m done. I’m not listening anymore. I don’t care anymore. There’s nothing anyone can say that will change my mind…. Whatever.”
No one likes being dismissed. We want to feel like our opinions matter, especially in a group we trust. It think that’s why we need to be careful with using that word in our families. It breaks my heart to think of the times that I’ve probably whatevered my children when they were talking about their day or something they cared about. I grieve the moments I’ve whatevered my wife about something that happened at school that day.
Whatevering doesn’t just hurt others; it hurts us. When we whatever someone else, we limit our ability to learn and grow. It just might be that the thoughts of that other person are exactly the solution to your problem. I wonder how many times I’ve “whatevered” a moment that was about to change my life. I wonder how many times I quit listening when the solution was just around the corner. I have probably set my own life back years with that simple ugly word, “whatever.”
This week I invite you to watch out for those “whatever” moments that are lurking around your conversations. The kids are starting school and have a lot to say. Your partner is waiting to share life with you if you will truly engage. The insight and wisdom of others is just a talk away. Proverbs 1:5 says it this way, “Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance.” I’m guessing ol’ Solomon didn’t whatever folks and that’s how he got so wise.
Take time this week to listen and engage. Have a real discussion with someone who doesn’t agree with you. Take stock in the thoughts of others and refrain from uttering that awful eight letter word, whatever. Show some respect to the insight of the group. Grow your conversation endurance. Keep learning and keep listening.
Love one. Love another.
*This article is also published in the Gulf Breeze News, August 11, 2016