On Marketing: Advice for Misfits
On Marketing: Advice for Misfits
Misfits Are Made, Not Born
Just as you learn the language (with seeming effortlessness) of your household, you learn social skills by example and teaching, in the home and neighborhood, and don’t learn them if these things are lacking. There are tremendous nuances to social engagement: facial expression, tone of voice, inflection of individual words, body language. There is the exterior language of social correctness (etiquette): to stand when someone enters the room, shake hands, turn off the television, ask if someone minds your answering the phone. Example teaches how to invite someone to an event; how to introduce people uninsultingly; how to speak to the bereaved—and much more. We gain the confidence that experience invests in us, to feel comfortable approaching others, to cultivate a store of small talk for starting conversation.
All this is learned best by witnessing, and being encouraged to participate in, social interactions in the house, in the interface between household and community; and, where of these there are few or none, a future adult is raised with a social disability.
The poorly socialized must launch into a judging world without the social skills to navigate it, and are likely to have fewer opportunities to practice new skills they hope to develop. With a history of ostracization, they are more likely to be sensitive to signs of not being accepted by a group, more fearful of the consequences.
This is a vicious circle. Others, not seeing mannerisms of friendliness in the poorly socialized, treat them in an unfriendly way; rejection hits the hypersensitive outcast as one would expect, to view the matter analytically:
Misfits have little ability to obtain power in the world—to win supervisory posts, to be trusted as authorities—therefore, in their powerlessness, they feel a heightened threat when treated to snubs and gossip. They respond defeatedly, maybe hostilely, to judgment, and earn more judgment, which pushes them further towards the margin.
Lone people must be firm and active in teaching themselves, and insisting upon, a positive self-image; we must join forces to assert our rights, as consumers, and as a constituency (irony notwithstanding.)
Suppose someone breaks your window and then offers to prevent its happening again if you pay them money. You would call that a racket. You wouldn’t blame yourself for not guarding your window closely enough. When you live in a society whose mechanisms—which are identifiable in their characteristics, and measureable in their results—push you to the margin and prevent you from leaving it, this marginalization is not your fault. You don’t control this. You didn’t aspire to it in childhood. You didn’t work to bring it about. You have no cause to accept a lesser valuation as a human being.
Blunt Talk About Behaviors Both Harmful and Personal
Gossip is a fully loaded weapon.
Even a not-too-dire label, such as “shy” can do considerable damage (does a “shy” person have any hope of being promoted to management?), when people point at you behind your back and tell others this word defines you.
Two bigotries hit the misfit especially hard.
People who are over thirty-five and unmarried know very well what the label is that gossips put on them. The marginalized person is caught in a vise, between tolerance for all and the irrefutability of an attack never made openly. Because all minorities need to hold one another up, because making someone’s existence a pejorative, and frightening the weak into blaming the scapegoat rather than the bully, is actually successful (at keeping us in our corners) when we fail to be alert to it, we need to be very firm on the definitions involved.
Why it’s an attack for someone to be labeled gay, is not because people don’t have the right to identify as they choose, and should not be able to freely exercise this right in a safe environment; but specifically because this is so—
Your body, your choice at this most personal level, your self, is a matter of utter sovereignty, and should simply not be touched, even verbally, by others.
To state it in plain terms, a thing you make up in your head is a fantasy. How much enjoyment you get out of your fantasy, and how often you pull someone aside to share it, is a matter of personal proclivity. If you are that one who always speaks on a particular subject, no one else has cause to doubt what you are clearly telling them about yourself.
A business relationship does not in any way call for sexual fantasies about colleagues or vendors…and most social interactions are of a business nature. The rule holds true equally for neighborly relations, host/guest relations, schoolmates, churchgoers, sports participants, charitable volunteers, political groups, etc.
Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about normalization, the many dangers in allowing shady practices to be cast in innocent terms. That combination of uncommitted stances peculiar to political correctness—the earnest wish to be moral, the lack of a leaderly attitude towards what is the essence of morality, courage—expands the environment in which an old form of bullies’ maneuvering ranges freely. This is: aggression followed by crying victim. If it is well understood that permissiveness leads to bad acts, why such reluctance to be strict? Fascism is flourishing while society’s “good people” cower in the fear of being labeled fascist.
And this is not to say some tactics of “progressivists” are not in fact acts of bullying. Many popular platitudes (where there’s smoke, there’s fire—where there’s smoke, someone’s blowing it, at any rate), are not as wise as they may seem. One that does hold up, as far as I know: There’s no right way to do a wrong thing.
Now consider abnormalizing, the second bigotry that makes the marginalized miserable. Here we have a segment of the population deliberately prohibited by the mechanisms described above from fully participating in society, or participating at all; and then because fear, mistrust, and defeatedness have been instilled in them, these evidences of a pattern of treatment are used to accuse them of mental illness. Worse than that, we have a fictional notion of what mental illness is, strongly perpetuated by a group unlikely to view themselves as bullies, or aspire to be.
That is, writers, of scripts and stories.
I have read a lot of genre fiction (romance, mystery, horror), in which the dénouement hinges on a character who has been going about functionally, running a business, holding public office; or (most egregious of all), pottering quietly as the spinster sister. At story’s end, out pops the crazy, in full Maniacal Murderer mode.
This commonality of popular culture reinforces the damage done by armchair psychology, the idea that others who seem normal are probably, for every show of ego, a narcissistic personality; for every change of mood, bi-polar; for every self-guarding reaction to bullying, depressive; for every unguarded chuckle to themselves at a funny thought, unhinged.
Truly, we in the arts ought not to breathe reanimation into hurtful stereotypes. The real murderer can be revealed in a thousand ways. We know enough now about the biology of brain chemistry to know that mental health is health, that’s all. It doesn’t require the damaging and divisive special category.
So, the lone person’s economic opportunities are curtailed by doors closed deliberately. Being poorer than average, and very unlikely to hold power, the lone person is acutely aware of vulnerability. This vulnerability becomes a type of disability, since the social aspects of life are undetachable from access to its greatest benefits.
Next up…you have a product to sell. You have no great circle of friends, if any.
(And friendlessness is fine. You are not inferior, you are not a failure. Like berating the lower working class for not having better paying jobs with which to buy housing in better neighborhoods, such attacks on the friendless make no sense.)
Is there a way to make social media work for you?
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)