This week, when going out fo some errands (just like a 70-year old, hehe), I was on my way to the post office when I saw – and heard – a dog barking incontrollably. He was just there, standing next to a man, obviously his owner, barking at no one or nothing in particular. He came across to me as a very nervous dog indeed. As I went past the duo, I heard the man just saying patiently to the dog, repeatedly “in a minute, in a minute, in a minute”.
It was obvious that nothing was going to happen in a minute but, regardless, the man kept on saying it and I could still hear him saying it to the dog long after I had passed them. I then started thinking what was the use of saying that? And then I thought that that man was very clever. He was just calming the dog with a little false promise, because he knew that if the dog heard that, he might just calm down to wait for what would happen “in a minute”. It didn’t work as such (as he kept on barking), but having said that, maybe without those words the dog might have gone running towards the cars on the road or something. Maybe those 3 little words made a difference somehow and that wise man knew exactly what he was doing.
I then started thinking about what words make me calm down. What do I say to myself when I feel a bit out of control? It took me a while to remember, really, as this is exactly the kind of thing that you do automatically and without giving it too much thought, but I reckon that what I say the most is: “So what?”
If nothing is going towards the plan, I say “So what?”. If something happens and I don’t know what I can do about it, I ask “So what?”. If people are awkward and I don’t understand their way of thinking, I ponder “So what?”. This little question seems to carry me through different situations and it seems to calm me down somehow, just like the dog calmed down (slightly) when hearing his owner say “in a minute”.
“So what?”, to me, represents a question as well as a statement. It’s a question on situations where I have to do something, when a decision is required of me or when I have to form an opinion about this or the other. My little question is used in this context when some action is required to move forward or to stop moving, if this is the right decision (although, who on earth can say when a decision is right or wrong!).
Equally, my little question works as a statement when nothing else needs to be said, when something outrageous happened or when I am gobsmacked about something and simply cannot get my head around it. “So what?” works as a little cynical way of detaching myself of that situation, usually to protect myself by not getting involved.
I reckon every person has a little sentence that they say either aloud or to themselves when they feel a bit lost. Be it “in a minute”, “so what” or whatever you say yourself, these little gems help us. They give us time to gather our thoughts, recognise our needs and move on, either by actually doing something or doing nothing at all. Some words are so powerful that they manage to shift our way of thinking, the way we act and our perceptions. If we have to ask ourselves questions before actually reacting, so be it. And if we take a little bit longer to actually do something when that is required, well… so what?