Serious Social Flippancy

by Jay Deragon on 03/27/2012

Flippancy is assumed to be an inappropriately shallow social response to something serious. The user of flippancy (the flippantee) may seem to value the opportunity to make light of a topic more than acquiring authentic understanding of some piece of serious information.

We’ve all been in conversations when one party throws in a flippant remarks that takes the conversation down the wrong road, or does it?

Some flippant remarks tend to get everyone’s attention away from the seriousness of the initial subject matter and onto something related but lighter.  Some suggest that a flippant remark during a serious discussion actually improves the memory around the serious subject matter.  Then there are some who are flippant just to be flippant as a means of disrespect.

Someone who is flippant during a serious business conversation will probably be rebuked by their manager, “Don’t be flippant!” The person who shouts this out will feel that making light of a subject  is inappropriate and unprofessional.

And yet there’s a logical contradiction in there. The command, “Don’t be flippant!” is surely flippant itself. If flippancy means to demonstrate a shallow and unfeeling response to something serious, then shouting, “Don’t be flippant!” is the ultimate flippancy, because (a) it’s a shallow and unfeeling response to something serious (flippancy is a serious subject), and (b) it’s ignorant of the logical contradiction it contains, which demonstrates a shallow and unfeeling attitude to logical contradictions.

Life is serious and so is business. But taking things too seriously can reduce the value of a conversation while adding levity to a subject matter can actually help increase value.  Social flippancy is serious business because it gains lots of attention and creates emotional memories.  Attention and emotional memories are components of learning that last. Life and business is serious and most want it to last.

Refusing to take social flippancy seriously is… well, flippant.


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