I can’t tell you how many times I have sat with two people and one looked at the other and made the statement “that’s not normal!” Usually, the context is that one doesn’t understand or doesn’t like what the other person does or says and pulls out that little phrase to express their frustration.
There are two big reasons why using this statement is detrimental to the relationship and/or situation.
First – it’s an accusation.
Accusations are very rarely ever productive in bringing resolution to a situation. In fact, they often just enflame it more, much like throwing fuel on a fire. The person leveling the accusation in the moment is putting the other down and placing self in a higher position of judgment. By rendering the verdict of “not normal,” they are implying that something is off or not right in the other person. It is highlighting what is seen as a flaw or a defect in them. This only serves to cause greater defensiveness and counter-attacks coming from the one being put down in this way.
When we hold to an ideal of normal, we end up judging the other person by the standard that we have set up in our mind as the way they should act. We make our preferences the expectation of what is and what is not “normal.”
Second – it’s a lie.
Normalcy is a myth. As I am known for saying, “Normal is just a setting on a dryer.” Otherwise, normal doesn’t exist. No two people are alike. No two situations are alike. No two relationships are a like. Each one has its own unique challenges and nuances and issues. Every person has their own flaws and imperfections. Humanity is diverse and varied and infinitely changing. For that reason, there is no normal.
Normal would be boring. Normal would remove what makes us unique. Normal would destroy the beauty of the individual.
We should not only stop using the false idea of “normal,” we should begin to celebrate the incredible wonder of uniqueness.
Instead of telling someone they aren’t normal, we need to find better ways of expressing our frustration and open our hearts and mind to seek understanding. We will get much farther and accomplish more in our relationships when mutual understanding is the goal. It doesn’t work to bully or browbeat others into our way of thinking by using accusations and labels. It is much more effective to listen and ask questions and find the common values that are the foundation of the relationship.
So, let’s stop using normal except when doing laundry.