Which is It?
Off the Wall, March 12,

Often I find someone criticizing me for what I consider to be a misunderstanding. I may hear, “Pee Vee, you complain too much.” I don’t, of course, consider it that. I feel I have just stated fact. There is a difference, you know. But, the more I got to thinking about it, I can understand how listeners may interpret my statements.

As an example, I may say to Henry, “Why did you only give me such a small piece of fish?” Right away I hear, “Quit complaining. Be happy I gave you any fish at all.”

Wow! That knocked me back a few steps. He could have simply stated, “You usually ask for smaller portions, so I was trying to comply with what you had ordered before.” Now, that would have been a much preferred answer, in my opinion.

“Hey Bill,” said Bertha. “Why in blazes do you keep it so cold in this place? I’m freezing.”

Here again, I can understand both sides, one as being a complaint from the visitor, and the other, the property owner wanting to save high utility expenses.

Little Bobby Boafmoff always wiped his mouth on his sleeve after eating. When he grew up, he had a tendency upon driving to do the same thing. After all, trying to find a napkin in a bag filled with crumpled wrappers used to cover fast food was much more difficult than raising his arm to his mouth and using his sleeve. Since this lad drove all over the place in southwestern Pennsylvania for his living, he found this method much safer whereby he could keep his eyes on the road.

One day, a friend went along with him on his journey. Marc Waysinminski, a fellow-worker saw his friend commit this act and piped up asking, “Hey, man, why are you using your sleeve? Don’t you have any manners?”

Was Marc inquiring as to Bobby’s actions or causing him grief by trying to irritate him? Now, that’s food for thought, I’d say.

Did you ever notice how some people will try anything to agitate you?

I’ve gotten this question before. “Hey, Pee Vee, why are you so fat?” I don’t care who you are, such a statement will play a number on you, unless you handle your answer maybe with a little humor, if you can think of a particular answer quickly.

When I was in Weight Watchers, I stated, “You have to realize I used to have two cookies in the oven, and now I have one with a few crumbs.” Or, “How much time do you have? You know, it didn’t happen overnight.” Of course, an answer like that may turn the tides a bit. Third, “Am I? I rarely look down!” Imagine the expressions on the interrogators’ faces.

Here is another statement that people have tossed my way. “Why do you live in a house with so many stairs? Don’t you realize they may do you in?”

I know these individuals mean well, but maybe they don’t recognize the fact that these stairs just may be keeping me healthier than if I lived in a ranch style house.

Here is a declaration a priest told me one time. “Hey, Pee Vee. You ought to harden your skin and get a life.” Isn’t that a double whammy, especially from a man of the cloth? Well meaning, I’m sure, it was hurtful, at best.

In making comments about others, maybe the following suggestions may prove worthy.

First and foremost, before you open your mouth and make a statement of any kind, think first what you may be saying. If you are trying to hurt someone, that’s not hard. Just construct your sentences that you know will be piercing, and then let them rip.

Of course, not many people even think this way, here again in my opinion. Sometimes people just don’t think before they talk. It may take a little longer to say what you plan to say, but safer in the long run.

Third, accumulate a small list of answers that will be fitting to any complaint, especially with a humorous slant.

Fourth, realize that many of the statements made are well meaning. They just weren’t said properly. Ask, “Do you mean…?” That will clear the air.

And fifth, if you are going to complain to another about maybe their actions, make sure you have your facts straight first. The worst thing one can do is accuse someone falsely

- Paul J. Volkmann
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