Tell Them One Thousand-and-One Times and Then Change Your Tactic

By Don Hall

PARENT:
"How many times have I told you to stop hitting your sister?!

CHILD:
"But she hit me first."

PARENT:
"I mean, I've told you a thousand fucking times and you simply don't listen! What do I have to say to get it through your thick goddamned skull that you CANNOT HIT YOUR SISTER?!

Ah. Communication. Some pretty sticky territory, eh?

CITIZEN:
"How many times have I told you not to shoot the black man suspected of crime?"

COP:
"I was defending myself."

CITIZEN:
"I mean, I've told you a thousand fucking times and you simply don't listen! What do I have to say to get it through your thick, thuggish brain that you CANNOT JUST SHOOT PEOPLE BECAUSE OF THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN?!"

We've all read the internet pundit's definition of insanity, right?

POC:
"How many times have I told you to about acknowledging your white privilege?!

WHITEY:
"I didn't own slaves."

POC:
"I mean, I've told you a thousand fucking times and you simply don't listen! What do I have to say to get it through your thick, lily-white mentality that you WERE BORN INTO A FUNDAMENTALLY RACIST SOCIETY AND IT BENEFITS YOU WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT?!"

If you've told someone something repeatedly and the message isn't getting through, you have to recognize one of three things:
1. The recipient is too stupid to understand.
2. The recipient doesn't give a shit and does not want to hear it.
3. Perhaps you need to present your point in a different way than you have been.

If the person is too stupid to understand or just doesn't give a shit, there isn't any amount of yelling and scolding you can do to change the pattern. It is, of course, assumed that in the telling you are trying to change this person's behavior. If you don't, you're just grandstanding for some attention. If you are genuine in your desire to change behavior rather than merely feel superior on some level and you believe that the recipient is worth the effort, take a hard look at No. 3.

If you were watching that parent scream at his child, you might suggest he try another tactic rather than hostility and demands. You might suggest that another approach to his child might bear a more fruitful result. You might suggest that his frustration and rage, while perhaps completely justified, is not achieving the result he wants. And, sure, he might tell you to stick it up your ass but at least you tried.

Look. I understand why that parent is at his wit's end. There are things I see clearly in this world that I believe to be true. I believe that less guns equals less gun violence. I believe that both the Wars on Terrorism and Drugs are abysmal failures with real life consequences for those caught in the zealotry. I believe that people should be free to fuck whomever they wish keeping consent and age as a reasonable pair of guidelines. I believe that race and class and religion are all ways we divide ourselves up rather than overcome to collaborate.

And I have found myself screaming—both in real decibels and in ALL CAPS ONLINE—at people whose behavior I think should change. I realize, though, that my screaming DOESN'T ACHIEVE THE RESULTS I WANT.

And neither does yours.

If the recipient is too stupid to understand or doesn't give a shit, walk away. Expend no energy on him. You're wasting the only irreplaceable resource you have, the seconds on the clock.

Otherwise, change your tactic or admit you don't really give a fuck if things get better.