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Okay everyone. It’s time to start conceptualizing crying differently.
First, keep in mind that although I’m talking about “crying,” different people handle stress in different ways. I often cry when life seems just a little too hard to deal with, but others go on a swearing binge, get angry, or withdraw. Crying is also the example I use because it’s easy to point to the distinction between someone who is not crying and someone who is. If I were using anger, for example, it would be hard to say when the frustration breaks into anger and the change might be more in degree rather than a clear on/off distinction. Now on to the reconceptualization!
There are two errors men and women (but mostly men) make when trying to figure out why someone is crying. The Type 1 error is when they think whatever they just did is the entire reason for the tears. I’m sick of explaining to people (read: male friends or boyfriends) that just because I’m crying doesn’t mean I’m too fragile to handle the insensitive comment they just made, I’m distraught by their decision not to have lunch with me, or I’ll fall apart if they don’t respond to my text. If I cried every time they did those things, they would (correctly) brand me a needy, psychologically ill person whom they should tell to get help rather than continue to spend time with me.
Type 1 errors are problematic because it ignores the reality: no unanswered text is worth crying over by itself. If you think that's the only reason I'm crying, you've missed something fundamental about both my personality and understanding of the world. Type 1 errors also have the nasty side effect of causing people to conclude that you’re crazy because rational human beings don’t get upset over those things. However, the most dangerous result of this error is that we’ll think that if the immediate problem is solved, the person we’re dealing with will stop being upset. Usually, the anger or crying just happens all over again when a new problem arises. I don’t really care that much that you never returned my text and all the apologizing and subsequent texting isn’t going to make me feel much better (though, frankly, it couldn’t hurt).
Type 2 errors are, if anything more dangerous (and not only to your health, men). Ever see a man make the critical mistake of asking a crying woman if she’s on her period? Yes. This is that error. Just because other stuff might be going on in the background doesn’t mean what you did wasn’t tear-worthy, it just means that it might not be the only thing bothering that person. The danger of this error should be obvious: you risk making the person even angrier if you ignore the triggering event in favor of blaming their emotions on things that have nothing to do with you.