Have you noticed the word ‘patronising’ is becoming more common every day?
“Don’t you patronise me!”
“I feel patronised.”
Are just two of the most common.
But what is the real meaning of the word and where are we taking it out of context?
Over the last few decades, even the dictionary has changed its mind.
In the Oxford Dictionary from 1980 the definition is;
pa’tronize. v.t. 1. Act as a patron towards, support, encourage. 2. Treat (person, thing,) as if with consciousness of one’s superiority.
But in 1996 from the Oxford dictionary it became;
patronize v.tr. (also –ise) 1. Treat condescendingly. 2. Act as a patron towards. 3. Frequent (a shop etc.) as a customer.
For me, the first definition makes sense for the real meaning of the word.
Let me illustrate with a story.
Someone I know who runs a business mostly online had a customer who complained about a product that he sells continuously and is an expert in that product.
When he went to great lengths to explain the nature of the product and why something had developed, which to the customer appeared as a fault, she accused him of patronising her.
But he was simply carrying out his side of her patronising his business. He was superior in his knowledge of the product.
But, we have now developed the habit of using the second definition. Many times when people mean well, such as giving up their seat on the bus, or helping someone in some way, many of us decline that help because we see it as being treated condescendingly.
If being patronised then; is someone giving up their seat for me, or helping me on with my coat, or asking if I am ok, I don’t mind being patronised.
Perhaps we all need to ask ourselves in what context we are using the word. The next time we feel “patronised,” are we feeling condescended to? If someone gives up their seat for you, are they coming from a position of superiority? Or kindness?
The world is becoming a place where many people seem to be on the defensive. You may say this is because Planet Earth is becoming a very dangerous place to be. Maybe true or it may not be more dangerous than it ever was. But we do seem to be feeling that we are living on the edge of a precipice.
But how about being the change you want to see and start with making a change in your corner of the world? There are all sorts of things we can change and to be aware of some of them is a start.
Perhaps the original use of this word in our vocabulary will be the first step. Because once we are aware of peoples true motives and don’t immediately go down the road of being or feeling “Patronised” we can help to spread a little kindness. In turn that will lead to us all to not being afraid of showing kindness, for fear of being accused of patronising the other person.
From little acorns mighty oaks do grow.