AIBU to find it insulting when benefit organisations tell me I am very articulate?

(42 Posts)
fluffyduffydoo Tue 19-Aug-14 21:14:46

This AIBU is going back a few years.
I became a single parent and lost my home due to the death of my partner (life insurance didn't cover the circumstances) and one phrase that kept coming up when dealng with the dept of unemployment and the housing office and even the CAB was 'you are very articulate'

I found it patronising bordering on insulting but I'm not sure why?

Almost as if they were surprised someone was asking for needing help and who were, well 'articulate' confused

No-one else has ever called my articulate but this seemed to be a buzzword used towards me n my experence.

Does it have a secondary meaning that I'm unaware off, such as a pretentious annoying twat or something?

wingcommandergallic Tue 19-Aug-14 21:20:18

It probably means "crikey. This person can spell and construct a grammatically correct argument. Such a pleasant change"!

nocoolnamesleft Tue 19-Aug-14 21:22:53

Or are they insulting all the other people they see, and you're the only one they're not insulting? I'd actually worry that they mean "Yes! This one's actually literate! That makes such a refreshing change from all the other <insulting term of your choice>s that we see the rest of the time".

fluffyduffydoo Tue 19-Aug-14 21:30:45

yes, I think reflecting on it I find insulting as there appears to be an 'all people on benefits are 'stupid' attiude

SaucyJack Tue 19-Aug-14 21:34:02

I'm sure it's a veiled insult of some description- the jobcentre doesn't do compliments.

Possibly means you talk too much (for them) or dare to answer back.

extremepie Tue 19-Aug-14 21:34:03

Yanbu, I have been told I sound 'educated' before and also found it vaguely insulting, ordinarily that would be a compliment of sorts but in the circumstances it was a kind of ' I can't believe you are' sort of thing :/

KatnissEvermean Tue 19-Aug-14 21:39:29

I worked at the CAB for many years, and would never have said anything like that to a client, but I the majority of the people I dealt with were not articulate (whether it was because of literacy problems, using over emotional language in complaints, etc) and that was part of the reason they needed support.

Was it said in the context of asking you to fill in your own forms, write your own letters or make your own telephone enquiries? That's the only reason I can think of anyone saying it you.

taxi4ballet Tue 19-Aug-14 21:42:12

Jobsworth officials do seem to have a problem with bright people who are capable of disagreeing with them, don't they?!

LapsedTwentysomething Tue 19-Aug-14 21:43:20

I used to work for a small recruitment agency and saw the comments the women who owned the company wrote on profile cards. They were questionable to say the least. Of course I had a look at my own and apparently I too was 'articulate' and in fact 'smashing'. I found it cringy and unprofessional. How dare they look down their privileged noses at their clients and make judgements like tha at interview? There were some really snotty comments.

BreakWindandFire Tue 19-Aug-14 21:49:31

YANBU. I live in quite a rough area of London. After giving birth the HV (posh Hampsted type) made her usual new mum visit and seemed genuinely surprised that I 'had books' in the house (8 bookcases cos DP and I are real hoarders unable to get rid of books bookworms).

She turned up with a clutch of NHS leaflets which seemed to be written in very very basic English. I googled them later to discover that without knowing anything about me or my circumstances, she'd only brought the ones for new mothers with learning difficulties.

fluffyduffydoo Tue 19-Aug-14 22:15:49

KatnissEvermean No, I approached the CAB on a query regarding the charge the council wanted to, and did charge me (£650 for one week) moving from a temporary accommodation into a permanent

As I wanted to remain in the temporary accomdation for 5 days to be able to get a cooker and carpets and make it look livable in the house before me and my dc moved in

My approach to the CAB was more a 'can the council make you move into a completely bare house that looks like something out of Trainspotting and charge you £650 to stay in the temporary house

All worked out in the end, but obviously I'm still smarting about it a bit

KatnissEvermean Wed 20-Aug-14 07:33:27

Then YANBU at all. It's a really patronising thing to say, a bit weird and would make me feel really uncomfortable and judged in an already crap situation.

I'm glad that it's all worked out for you now!

GrapefruitStillLoveIt Wed 20-Aug-14 07:36:34

I work for a charity that is partially funded by govt and it advises a particular sector (won't say) and I think I have said this in the past. But I meant it as in 'well, the first step is you fight your corner, and that's half the battle' because obviously a lot of people are kind of unable to help them selves.

GrapefruitStillLoveIt Wed 20-Aug-14 07:41:56

I think there is some pressure on people who come from a wealthy &/or more privileged background to step back from some of the services available though. I know that from having availed of some of the services out there when I was a single parent. People found it astonishing that I would claim anything when members of my family were very comfortably off. And perhaps there is an argument for that (although I could argue against it too!). I never tell people they're entitled to a particular benefit. I choose to say eligible, and I say that because on the rare occasions I described myself as being entitled to something, I was attacked! By somebody who'd never experienced a day's financial hardship in her life

dashoflime Wed 20-Aug-14 07:55:18

I have also worked in the CAB. "articulate" might be used as a prelude to asking that person to draft their own letters or contact the council themselves in the first instance.
As in "your very articulate, Im sure if i note down some points, you could do a letter to the council. If they dont get back to you in 3 weeks come back and we'll chase it up for you"
I also sometimes said it to show faith in the persons abilities as in "Im sure you'll be fine at tribunal- you come across as very articulate"
I also got clients who would use it in reference to themselves: "If the systems so tough for an articulate person like me, I dont know how other people manage" That used to piss me off. It seemed like they were insulting the other clients and also me a bit- by assuming that there was no skill involved in navigating the system beyond being middle class and personable. In reality, there is considerable skill involved because yknow, law is complicated and the system is a minefield.

BeckAndCall Wed 20-Aug-14 07:57:27

fluffy you say this goes back 'a few years' and 'you're still smarting' out it.

I think you need to let it go... Perhaps you're focussing on this when there is something else about the situation that is really bothering you? I'm very sorry you lost your partner - it must have been horrible - are you back on your feet now?

PausingFlatly Wed 20-Aug-14 08:30:42

Isn't that a criticism of the fact that the system is a minefield, though? And that one does need skill to navigate it?

Most people don't need third-party help to get a mortgage, or see a doctor, or apply for schools, or buy an airline ticket.

So it's a bit of a surprise that one needs special skills and external advisors to apply for benefits - a system which by its very purpose has to be universally accessible to people at their lowest moments and the least able.

Merel Wed 20-Aug-14 09:12:30

Several years ago I had the pleasure of signing on at the job centre after moving areas, being in between jobs and being low on cash. I remember the lady who saw me made a few comments about how different I was from the 'usual' people who came in and she didn't expect to see me again after the initial consultation.

It was meant to be a compliment to me, but I couldn't help thinking she was putting down her other clients to me, which was a bit unprofessional. In her defence I am sure they see people in there with all sorts of issues. Whilst I was queueing I was engaged in conversation at 9am in the morning with a man who was clearly drunk already.

Flipflops7 Wed 20-Aug-14 09:27:23

I used to get this as a teen when any person in authority e.g. doctors looked at my home address (nasty inner London council estate).

Flipflops7 Wed 20-Aug-14 09:33:48

In fact it happened all the time and I was constantly patronised until I went to university. After that I was always asked what (public) school I'd been to grin

dashoflime Wed 20-Aug-14 09:54:37

Pausingflatly It annoyed me because it erases the very real skills that working class people have (and need) to deal with the system.
It was clear that, up until that point, that person would have been assuming that if someone was having problems accessing a service it would be down to their own inadequacies, not because the services was poorly designed for their needs.
In reality almost everything meant for poor people or powerless people is scarce, needlessly complex and absurdly patronising. The assumption that someone elses failure to get what they need from the system is due to their lack of skill, whereas you (with all your articulacy) should be able to manage is adding insult to injury.
Its a prejudice shared by professionals as well, as OP has discovered.
Almost the only time you see working class peoples considerable skill in navigating the system awnowleged at all- is in negative terms. Someone is said to be "manipulative" or "know how to work the system"

Idontseeanyicegiants Wed 20-Aug-14 09:56:53

I had this when I went through a period of signing on. It had snowed badly, the traffic was at a standstill so I walked the 5 miles to sign on. Turned up looking like a yeti all bundled up with hiking boots and a fairly old looking (but my warmest) coat etc, the person I spoke to was quite open about the fact that she had made assumptions about me..
She was 'pleasantly surprised' that I was so literate and sounded like an intelligent woman, I remember her asking me if I was claiming everything I could and when I said I thought my DH earned too much for things like FSM she was visibly shocked that I had a husband hmm
If I hadn't been freezing bloody cold and thinking more about walking 5 miles to get home again I would have complained about her, way to insult both me and every other person signing on!

Meow75 Wed 20-Aug-14 10:03:15

I'm currently unemployed, had my 6 months of contributions only JSA payments, so now only sign on to get my NI contributions.

Every time I meet someone new there, they seem to do a double take at me, as if shocked that I can string a sentence together. There have also been "positive sounding" comments about the way I dress, because I don't go to sign on in my scruffiest joggers or ripped to shreds jeans.

There's no reason NOT to wear those clothes as there is no penalty, but that's not how I normally I dress, so I am just me. Apparently unusual in my part of Eastern England.

Itsmynamechange Wed 20-Aug-14 10:06:37

I've had 'but you're so articulate and self aware!' from a fair few MH professionals hmm I have ocd and depression (amongst other things) but I'm not catatonic or in a fugue state (& even if I was that wouldn't mean I was less of a person).

Iwasinamandbunit Wed 20-Aug-14 10:16:39

I have received this as a back handed compliment when dealing with the medical profession. These are MH professionals.

Chatting to another patient a couple of days ago about a recent claim for PIP. He received assistance to fill out the form but they didn't show him what they had written nor get him to agree to it when he signed or give him a copy. This is scandalous in my mind.

There is also the fact that DH is Dr Iwasinamandbunit though he is a scientist and not a blood pressure Dr as I joke and the job I used to do was a professional one because they do ask about your background.

I have got the other patient to request that he gets a copy of his PIP form and if he doesn't like what is written to tell them that it is not valid as he didn't agree to it and wishes to resubmit.

Personally I think that because we are articulate they worry that if they fuck up we will complain.

My worry after speaking to this other patient is that people that are not articulate may be dismissed too readily.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now