Monday, April 7, 2014

Embarrassment: Why do kids get embarrassed and what to do about it

Jamie: let's go to the grocery store.

Dad: k gimme like 15 minutes to finish this show I'm watching. go get ready.

Jamie: k, I'll go see what of my favorite stuff we're out of.

[15 minutes passes and Jamie comes back]

Dad: ok let's go.

Jamie: Oh wait I need to change my socks.

Dad: uh.. what's wrong with your socks now?

Jamie: they're mismatched.

Dad: so?

Jamie: well, I don't want to go out with mismatched socks.

Dad: well, do what you want, but i don't see the problem.

Jamie: having mismatched socks is stupid.

Dad: um, you're wearing them now, are you stupid?

Jamie: no, i mean doing it in public is stupid.

Dad: you're still not explaining why you think it's stupid in public while not stupid at home.

Jamie: it's embarrassing in public.

Dad: do you mean that you don't want people to know that you're ok with wearing mismatched socks?

Dad: i mean, you're wearing them now so you must be ok with wearing them in general.

Jamie: ya I don't want them to know.

Dad: why do you care about what they know or don't know?

Jamie: I don't want them to laugh at me.

Dad: well first of all, you don't know why he's laughing. i see 2 ways it could go: either he's stupid and laughing because he thinks you're doing something stupid, or he's smart and laughing because he's happy that you did something smart.

Jamie: uh, let's talk about the stupid one first. how do you know he's stupid?

Dad: why else would somebody laugh at you while thinking that wearing mismatched socks is stupid?

Jamie: oh. it's cause he's stupid.

Dad: a smart person would think that you're smart for not caring about wearing mismatched socks in public.

Jamie: oh!

Dad: a smart person would realize that maybe you like wearing mismatched socks, or that maybe you care about putting socks on quickly, leaving more time for more interesting things, instead of spending time finding matching socks.

Jamie: oh ya! ok never mind the socks, let's just go.

[they get in the car and start driving.]

Jamie: by the way, what do you do if somebody does laugh at you?

Dad: well first, how do you know if he's laughing at you or with you?

Jamie: well, let's say he's pointing and telling other people to look too.

Dad: well, inside you can say to yourself 'oh that must be one of the stupid people who get embarrassed and who hide their real opinions for fear of losing approval from other people' and then you can giggle inside.

Jamie: giggle inside?

Dad: you can giggle outside too. or you can say the thing outside too, but for what? what do you gain by talking to this stupid person? do you think he's going to give you a chance to argue with him?

Jamie: well, maybe.

Dad: consider that this kind of person doesn't really think for himself. he blindly borrows the opinions of other people. that's why he's laughing at you, because he thinks it's weird for you to think for yourself, to have your own opinions, to not be following the same thing that everybody else follows.

Jamie: but people can change their minds.

Dad: yes, but only if they want to. only if they are interested to do that. do you think that somebody who laughs at you for wearing mismatched socks is going to be interested to argue with you about it?

Jamie: probably not.

Dad: you can try. there's no harm in trying.

Jamie: ok i will.

Dad: just be sure you know why you're trying.

Jamie: what do you mean?

Dad: well, do you want to argue with him for your benefit or for his benefit?

Jamie: you mean I shouldn't do it if it's for his benefit?

Dad: that's not what i mean. i'm saying that you should know what you benefit. and him benefiting should be only a secondary concern of yours.

Jamie: what would i benefit?

Dad: well, maybe you think that they might have a good reason for thinking what they think, and then you can ask them about that to learn about it  you might find out that your wrong and they are right, which is common. actually, in general, when you're talking to someone, there's always something you can learn from him.

Dad: also, maybe you want to learn how other people think, and one way to do that is to talk to other people.

Jamie: ok so if i do talk to somebody about why he's laughing at me for wearing mismatched socks, then i should only do it if i benefit something, and i should know what i'm benefiting, like maybe i want to learn more about why he's laughing.

Dad: right.

Jamie: but wait, didn't you already explain why he's laughing?

Dad: do you think I explained everything i know about that?

Jamie: i guess no.

Dad: and even if I did explain to you everything i know about that, do you think you learned everything I explained?

Jamie: i guess no because i could have misunderstood stuff.

Dad: and even if you did learn everything I explained about it, do you think that there's not more to learn about it? do you think i know everything about it?

Jamie: lol, no.

Dad: for one thing, you haven't learned why he cares about other people's approval.

Jamie: why does he care?

Dad: well we're here, let's continue this later.

Jamie: k, and I'll remind you later because I know you forget a lot.

Dad: well, one reason that I would forget this specific thing is that you are the one interested in learning about your specific questions, not me  I mean, I don't even know what your questions are so it's way harder for me to remember this vague thing than compared to you remembering your specific questions. 

Dad: so if you want to learn the answers to your questions, you should take initiative to learn about them, by say, asking me questions, and studying people by critically thinking about tv shows and stuff like that.

Dad: also you can read essays and books about it, and ask other people questions like Elliot and the other philosophers at the Fallible Ideas Discussion Group.

[on the ride home]

Jamie: so wait a minute, why would I want to learn how other people think?

Dad: well, it helps with knowing how to interact with them. like, if you want to play chess in a tournament, it's good to know some things about what they think because that helps you figure out why they do certain things.

Jamie: i don't know what you mean. can you give an example?

Dad: well, one time in a chess tournament somebody tried to intimidate me so that i play worse so that he wins. 

Jamie: what did you do?

Dad: well it was my turn to start the game but I didn't realize it, and he had his arms stretched out at opposite ends with his palms turned up. and he wasn't saying anything. and he had a mean look on his face.

Jamie: so what did you do?

Dad: well, i was confused, then i realized it's my turn and i played.

Jamie: did it work? did you play worse because he did that?

Dad: I'm not sure. maybe i did. i don't recall. i bet i did play worse. i remember really being confused by what he did. so i must have been thinking at least a little bit, which means that it was taking away focus from the game.

Jamie: hmm. so what did you learn?

Dad: well, i learned that sometimes a person will try to intimidate you to get you to do what he wants against your will. and in general, that means that sometimes a person will try to trick somebody to get what he wants against the the other person's will.

Jamie: oh a no-cp.

Dad: right.

Jamie: that's evil.

Dad: yes.

Jamie: so why did he do it?

Dad: well, i maybe he doesn't believe there is good and bad.

Jamie: ugh

Dad: ya ugh


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