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Elgin on Owning Up

April 1, 2012

Excerpted from The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin:

In such a case, there’s only one thing you can do…sit down and Level. Say that you are there because you’ve done whatever ridiculous thing you have done, that you already know you have no excuse for it, and that you have come in to clear it up as best you can. Do not rationalize; do not talk about how this would never have happened if it hadn’t been for some one else’s behavior; do not mention something the person you are talking to should have done to ward this off; do not, in other words, try to spread your guilt around. Level and be done with it.

Be certain you aren’t Placating, now! There’s a big difference between a Leveler’s “What I did was stupid, and I’m sorry I did it, and that’s why I’m here” and the Placater’s “I know you won’t have any respect for me ever again after the awful, terrible thing I did, and I don’t blame you one bit, and I’m so ashamed that I’d go kill myself except I’m so stupid I’d probably do that wrong too, and if you threw me right out of here this minute, it would serve me right.” Please don’t do that last routine; it’s nauseating.

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