Grateful to be fully vaccinated, some of us are relearning the art of unmasked, face-to-face conversation. I hope this shift won’t breathe new life into low-tech tools for muting one another.
For example, “You’re in denial” uses classic psychobabble to silence disagreement. If you answer, “No, I’m not,” you just proved the speaker’s point.
Another conversation-stopper is “Can’t you take a joke?” It shifts blame from one who says something offensive to the one who takes offense. Uneasy with threats to batter a spouse or kill an elected official? If you don’t want to be dismissed as humorless, better keep your mouth shut.
“I’m just saying” is a more recent addition to the toolkit. It supposedly takes the sting out of a remark by labeling it casual opinion or observation. Rather than an invitation to explore, it signals lack of interest in analysis or debate. You are free to respond, but your response will fall on deaf ears. You’re on mute.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.