I Don’t Care What You Say

Nothing should be more effective in stopping an argument than these words:

I don’t care what you say…

There are other variations — “no matter what you say”, “you can’t tell me”, “I know for a fact”.


These are STOP signs in any conversation. The person who injects these phrases is telling you that any further discussion is pointless.

So the proper reaction is to just end the conversation. Walk away. Move on to something else.

Yet — in real life and certainly in internet life — that’s not what happens, usually. Instead, for no apparent reason, these words increase the volume or accelerate the typing. When someone says “I don’t care”, we take that as a challenge that must be answered, swiftly, with even more words, facts, opinions, sound bytes.

How often have you turned right back into the argument, determined to get in the last word and end it on your terms, not theirs?

Why? They’ve let it be known quite clearly that they aren’t open to any further evidence or reasoning or authoritative findings. Yet you persist.

Take them at their word. They don’t care. It doesn’t matter.

Move on.

Oh, right — before YOU inject this into your speech, STOP and think.

I’m Sorry You’re So Dumb

How often have we had to listen to the “you’re so dumb” apology? We heard it today from Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives Brian Bosma who said:

I extended my apology to [Greg Louganis], not for actions taken, but for messages received. And I extend that same apology to anyone who received that same message.

Get it? I didn’t do anything wrong — you just read the wrong thing into it.

There are variations on this:

  • “I’m sorry if you were offended.”
  • “I apology for any offense you may have felt.”
  • “I’m sorry you misunderstood.”

This is not an apology — this is placing the blame on you, not on me. And, if that’s really the way it happened, I shouldn’t be apologizing at all — YOU should be apologizing to ME for being so ignorant.

Words To Replace “Ummm”

When you listen to interviewers and interviewees on the radio or television, count the number of times you hear words that replace “ummm” and “uhhh” — words that allow the speaker to stall until they can think of what to say.

Here’s one that makes me cringe: It’s interestingI hear this from questioners and respondents alike:

  • “It’s interesting, because …”
  • “That’s an interesting question. …”
  • “You know, what’s interesting is …”

While I’m glad to be told that something is interesting, I’m a little insulted — if it’s really interesting, I’ll recognize that not because you told me, but because it’s interesting.

So all of these “it’s interesting” uses are just stall tactics … no different from saying “uhhh” or “ummm”.

What are some other modern-day replacements for “ummm”?

Can We Talk?

No, I don’t mean “Do you have some time to talk?” I mean, really — are we able to have a conversation?

In an interesting column, Pamela Druckerman describes her observation, and her learnings, of cultural differences in conducting conversations in the French, the British and the American styles. The French style, she writes, is to seek out ways to prove someone wrong or skewer them “with a biting remark.” Their tendency, developed over hundreds of years’ experience, is to reward “clever, erudite and often caustic wit, aimed at making rivals look ridiculous.”

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The Resurrection of Voc-Ed

Imagine telling your high school students that they need to be preparing for vocational school after they graduate high school.

For some, that would be telling them something they already knew. Once they’re out of high school, they’ll learn a trade — auto repair, welding, plumbing, long-haul trucking. That’s what they expect and that’s what has been on their plan all through high school.

But many students — and their parents — would fly into a rage! Voc-Ed? Not my Johnny or Mary. They’re too smart for that, they’re going places, they’re going to be a professional, like their Mom and their Dad. They’re going to college.

So along comes Scott Walker who dares to say out loud what parents and guidance counselors have been saying for decades. Walker proposed a revision to the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement – the new wording begins: “The mission of the [University] system is to develop human resources to meet the state’s workforce needs, …”.

The phrase “to meet the state’s workforce needs” was added, as if to say that getting an education was not an end in itself. Rather, the purpose of going to the University is to get a job — or, to use other terms, to follow a vocation. That’s also the purpose of going to a trade school.

So, except for the size of the University, what is different between a trade school and the University? In Walker’s world, there is no difference — go to college to get a job.

This has been a troubling change in mission and purpose for college students that has grown over the last several decades. Even today, in the light of the burgeoning student debt, the size of the debt is measured against the amount of money that can be made following graduation. And, in that light, media and critics are guiding students to specific curricula, specific degrees and specific universities based on the starting salary of their graduates.

In my world, that perspective is one that applies to vocational school, but not to universities. The mission of a reputable university is to broaden knowledge, instill and nurture curiosity, and develop the skills of critical thinking and research. The mission of a vocational school is to develop the skills of a specific trade and produce students with marketable skills.

There is no demeaning of one or the other here. I hold these views, having been a university student studying political theory and philosophy, and having been a vocational school student studying computer programming and information systems. And yes, following vocational school, I got a job in information technology, which grew into a 40-year career.

To change the university’s mission to one of job placement — as Walker certainly and intentionally did — is to reveal an ignorance about the value and purpose of university-level education. If there is any doubt, then ask a gym-full of affluent parents of high schoolers if they think their Johnny or Mary should go to vocational school or to college. I’d expect their answer to be clear and forceful.

Standing In Line

Why do people wait in line?

Waiting for cheesecake

A favorite family story recalls seeing a large crowd of people, standing around or sitting on benches and planters in the heart of Waikiki one sun-filled day. We walked over to see what was going on — they were waiting for a table at the Cheesecake Factory, and the wait was two hours!

Why, in heaven’s name, would you spend two hours in Hawai’i waiting in line for food? Why, especially, would visitors wait for food they could get when the snow was on the ground back home in Michigan or Oregon or New Jersey?

Waiting for popcorn

Last Christmas, I saw a long line of people snaking through the busy shopping mall, dutifully waiting … for popcorn! No, the line wasn’t moving, at least not quickly. Were these shoppers just looking for an excuse to stand still for 20 or 30 minutes? Or was the popcorn (seriously, popcorn) worth the wait.

Waiting for hamburger

This morning, the business channel on TV talked about a new hamburger store that is challenging the entrenched giants. This store took off world wide when people were standing in long lines waiting … for a hamburger! Other people saw the long line as evidence that the line was worth the wait, so they joined the line.

And, of course, the iPhone waiting lines are legend.

No doubt, some in the line truly value the cheesecake, the popcorn, the hamburger or the phone that awaits them and rewards their patience. But, I’m willing to wager that a substantial part of that line is in line because there’s a line.

People are funny that way.