Enough is enough.
For the past week, I have been reminded repeatedly of the manner in which words acquire shades and nuances of meaning they were never meant to hold. You are left feeling bewildered and not a little nettled because something that you thought meant A now means A-. The (-) minus being a symbol of all the deviousness and scheming you can possibly imagine.
You didn’t know, never suspected, that the things aren’t as inflexibly solid as they look. When you lean against them knowing them to be immovable rocks, they float away as clouds.
How are words corrupted of the simple linearity of their meaning? And Why?
Take a word like RAPPORT. It’s a simple word with no complex shades in its meaning. It simply represents the camaraderie that exists or develops between people so that they feel safe enough to lower their guard and become more authentic and open in their interaction with each other. I am sure we’ve all heard this word and experienced this feeling.
There is nothing negative about the meaning of this word. Yet a few days ago I read a snippet in which rapport was accused of being the ultimate tool of manipulation. The writer advised his readers not to trust people who they have a rapport with. He asked them- implying the worst- whether they didn’t feel that people whom they have a rapport with are manipulative and out to grind an axe? Duh!?
The implication in that snippet was that anyone with whom you have a rapport- through a mutual interaction and very mutual effort- is out to get you. The term winning trust was put forth as an exhibit of unadulterated evil. One could almost smell the stink of devastating larceny and unholy mayhem coming off it in thickly cloying clouds. And I said to myself, “What the..!!”
Rapport building is not as easy as some sales gurus would have you believe. There nothing instant about it. People have a more sensitive sensor than the slick operators suspect. Building true rapport takes an investment of time. It certainly does not mean that you pretend to be someone you are not for the sake of impressing someone falsely. It requires you to be authentic in your actions and words. The key word here is AUTHENTIC… which is NOT the tool of the manipulator.
Yet, the snippet writer’s words meant to convey that a malevolent intent was inherent in the word. That the word could mean nothing but all that is manipulative, unscrupulous and cunning in the world.
Now, contrary to my written style, I am not a Pollyanna. I confess that people confuse me with one, to their later chagrin, I might add. I am NOT a Pollyanna, and I say this will all the ghoulish glee at my disposal.
I know there are manipulative people out there who go after establishing rapport with a grim eye on the main chance. They are NOT your friends. They are not going to watch out for your interest. They will as soon do the dirty on you as look at you. If you had pinned your hopes on them buying you so much as an ice-cream cone without expecting to collect your soul in payment, I would suggest you eat your vitamins regularly so you grow up (right) in a hurry.
There are slick operators out there. There those who think their glib oratory will fool all the people all the time. There are people who will pretend to be your buddies and then sell you (or your interest) down the river for their thirty pieces of silver. There are, and will always be, people who Counterfeit Virtue. What of it?
Do a few bad apples mean we must look upon every apple in the barrel with a jaundiced eye? Does it mean we should start looking for slugs under every rock and turn over each leaf? Are we to learn to mistrust everyone we have even a modicum of rapport with? Is the word to take the rap for manipulative people’s rampaging self-centeredness? I don’t know about you, but to me the idea is too bleak for contemplation!
It would have helped a lot if, instead of urging his readers to distrust the very word and what it truly embodies, the writer had explained how to identify the phony rapport builders. It would have helped if he had given tips on how to notice behavior that spells a counterfeit rapport. His purpose would have been served better if he had shown what actions and words betray a malicious desire to win trust.
In all honesty, I think that the writer was trying to draw his reader’s attention to the desirability of prudence in their interactions. I agree that one ought to be careful and vigilant. One should trust, not blindly but sensibly. But one must also remember that for every manipulator, there are ten people who are generous, honest and true.
We have enough to scare us without turning innocuous words into monsters. The world is a sad enough place without us feeling compelled to look under every rock expecting to find slugs. If we begin ascribing the worst interpretation to every word; to treat as a norm what is merely an exception and to clothe the symbol with that exception as a permanent solution; I am convinced we will have no words with which to describe goodness.
It sounds too much like throwing the baby out with the bath water!