Do you hear what they are doing now???

How many times have you heard a sentence starting about what “they” are doing, saying, responsible for?

Do you often complain about “people ” who irritate you or annoy you because they “always” do the same thing?

Do you add fuel to an argument by using the old reliable petrol of “you are always the same” when you are angry, frustrated or just plain fed up with something? 

Agatha Christie said ““I often wonder why the whole world is so prone to generalise. Generalisations are seldom if ever true and are usually utterly inaccurate.”
Murder at the Vicarage

Do you ever stop to think about how useful generalisations really are? What exactly are  we saying when we speak in generalizations? Are we staying anything at all or are we just complaining about something vague so that we can feel better but in doing so feeding into a collective sense of hopelessness? Who is the “they” we are talking about? The government? The E.U.? Teenagers? The Youth? The Elderly? The Bankers?  Generalisations allow us to speak in sweeping statement using information based on one or two specific instances.

Louis de Bernières, says in “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.”; “I know you have not thought about it. Italians always act without thinking, it’s the glory and the downfall of your civilisation. A German plans a month in advance what his bowel movements will be at Easter, and the British plan everything in retrospect, so it always looks as though everything occurred as they intended. The French plan everything whilst appearing to be having a party, and the Spanish…well, God knows. Anyway, Pelagia is Greek, that’s my point.”

In an age when we constantly strive to be an individual and encourage children to find their own path, and adults their own voice, surely generalizations are less useful than ever. Stereotypes are such an ingrained part of our psyche and language yet we now know that not all Irish people have red hair, freckles and live on potatoes, any more than all French people wear berets and stripy sweaters with garlic necklaces.

If we were to stop using sweeping statements and begin to think about our words and check to see if what we are saying is true, what difference would it make to our conversations?

Would what we say be of more value?

Would it be possible to say less yet say more as a result? 

We constantly strive to celebrate our differences and individuality, so how about you stop to think this week who exactly who it is you are talking about when you start your sentence with “Did you hear what they are doing now?” 

Lily Tomlin had a lot to tell us when she famously said “I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.”  

But Lily didn’t stop there. She took the famous “they” out of the sky and put it into words that make sense when she said “I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”







The point of comparison

Do you find yourself comparing yourself to someone younger, thinner, richer, more educated, brave, accomplished, clever or kinder?

Do you find yourself thinking “well it’s ok for him/her/them?”

Do you feel fatter, poorer, lesser as a result?

Helen Keller could neither see nor hear, and yet she was one of the most remarkable people of recent times. What she overcame on a daily basis was utterly remarkable to those of us with sight, hearing and a voice to air our opinions with. She influenced world leaders and policy, inspired millions and lived through two world wars, literally starring in her own life in the process. Helen had many sides to a complex personality, but very little to compare herself with. Sure, there were other people who had no sight but shared a vision for a better world for people with disabilities, but Helen also was a suffragette, a union supporter, a writer, an actor, an activist, an educator and a lobbyist for a host of causes throughout her long and active life.

In short, Helen compared herself to nobody. There was nobody like her to compare herself with. 

When we spent time comparing ourselves to others, we are ALWAYS going to find someone thinner, richer, wiser, younger, older, more or less successful. We are guaranteed to feel disappointed as a result of comparing ourselves to others, but also to feel perfectly justified in NOT trying something new or different, difficult or challenging because we are busy sitting in the pity barn!

If a woman like Helen Keller, could achieve an extraordinary life with such extraordinary challenges, then how could we take just a little bit of inspiration and try to do something out of the ordinary, with our extraordinary array of senses?

If we tell ourselves that we will wait until we are thinner and wiser, we are also going to be older and possibly fatter as a result. Waiting until we are ready is like Waiting for Godot in Beckett’s play. The longer we wait the more scared we become. The more conditions we want to have in place before we make a start, the more difficult it is to start anything at all.

What would happen if we stopped waiting and just started? 

What would happen if we tried to make a change and hoped things would conspire to help rather than get in the way? 

What would happen if we ended up inspiring others to take a chance and find their voice, just by doing the very thing we were scared to start all along? 

So this week make a start. Stop waiting and see what happens and stop waiting….