The Opposite of Love

It has been observed that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.   This sounds right to me.   Hatred, like love, is a powerful emotion, and powerful emotions are subject to change — indifference is the complete absence of any feeling about it one way or the other, there’s nothing to work with there, no redemptive moment possible when one party absolutely doesn’t care.  

Don’t kick the person when she’s down, step over as though you haven’t even seen them lying there.  It may seem an academic distinction, hatred vs. indifference and which is the opposite of love, but come for a short stroll, please.

Tell a joke, around the table people either laugh, laugh politely, groan, or shake their heads.  One person looks you dead in the eye, with the dead fish expression.  And afterwards doesn’t break character by winking, smiling, saying anything.  You make yourself vulnerable, to some extent, telling a joke and the dead fish reaction sticks a skewer in that willingness to open yourself.

Not the best example, perhaps.  My father was a master of this technique, I should be able to describe it better.   It requires, more than anything, knowing when to apply a good cold dose of strategic silence.   When you open yourself up to express a concern, speak directly about your feelings and ask for a reply– silence.  When you complain of the lack of reaction, you become a whiner and the silent party can now focus on what an asshole you are.  

It’s a foolproof system.   Mildly provoke somebody (“just kidding!!”) up the ante a bit (“for your own good!!! I love you!”) wait for the reaction and then — silence.   Beautiful, to a certain type of angry person, what a nice dose of silence will do.  Who needs the rack or a water board? 

“When you ask my opinion you just want me to tell you what you want to hear!” protests someone giving you the hard truth and dismissing the feelings you express as paranoia, over-sensitivity, lack of epidermis.  You can point out how many times you have sought and used contrary opinions to make changes in your life, your projects, your ideas, but in the case at hand– “you only want me to tell you you’re right” serves to end the conversation.   So be it.

Be direct, we are told.  In marketing, as in life, honesty, directness, integrity– these things rule (although countless exceptions apply).   The cure for directness?   Silence.

And of course, one person’s directness is another person’s double-barreled shotgun blast to the kisser.   C’est la guerre, I suppose. 


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