Friday, May 8, 2009
The classroom is full of your peers, your friends, the people you get drunk with on weekends. The lecturer is asking questions of students; testing whether anybody actually did the required readings. You did the readings. In fact you did extra reading and you hired a documentary on the subject; you love this stuff. You know the teacher's going to ask you because you know that they know that you know the answers. You know it and you're shit scared. You consider slipping out to the bathroom but don't want to draw attention to yourself. Even before the lecturer calls your name, you can feel the bright red tide of embarrassment creeping up your neck, above your collar and into your face.
I hate answering questions in class. Hate it. I always have. Especially, and weirdly, when I'm sure that I know the answers. I'm not really shy and I don't even have too many issues talking in front of large crowds, but when it comes to stating my opinion on matters that are important to me, I encounter problems. Thankfully for me, and sadly for society, everywhere I look I seem to see other people having the same issue.
One friend told me that the trouble for her was that she didn't think she could articulate her thoughts in a way that would make her sound intelligent, whereas everybody else seemed to be able to speak just fine. Another lady explained that she would regularly speak out in class but then immediately regret it and constantly replay her words in her mind, picking apart the flaws in what she'd said and how she'd said it. My sister has developed a complex system of body language and seating position so as to lessen the chances of being called upon in class.
So why are we all so afraid to speak up? Most people seem to give three reasons. They believe they aren't intelligent enough to have a right to an opinion, they don't want to be judged or they don't want to offend others.
True, it's often best to keep your mouth shut if you're not up on the subject at hand, but if you're involved in a conversation of which the subject matter is known or important to you, engaging in discussion is the best way to develop, strengthen and share your ideas and opinions.
As for being judged; so much of what we say is created through our body language and tone of voice. A completely false statement can be made utterly believable if said with conviction. If you don't feel courageous enough to say what you think; fake it till you make it.
I have always had a large issue with tactfulness and the growing lack of it. I dread offending people and, much like my friend, will continually screen things I've said, hoping that my words aren't being misconstrued as insults. When it comes to conversation, if I know my opinion will clash with somebody else's, I'll keep my mouth shut in order to keep the peace. I forget that most people enjoy a hearty conversation and that we're all capable of defending our own views and shut myself down, keeping my input to myself.
To the short end of a long story, I wanted to show you this video. Watch it and share it around. And if you can work out what the bottom of his shirt says, then extra credit points for you.
I don't want to grow up in a generation that is so caught up in self-consciousness and the need to please that we lose the art of conversation and debate.