Quite disarming

More than a few times now someone has described me as ‘quite disarming’. As my husband recommends, I’ve been trying the compliment (or critique?) on for size; does this fit me? Which has lead me to ask a prior question, what exactly does ‘disarming’ mean?

Disarming no. 1

The dictionary talks about disarming as a way of removing feelings of distrust or hostility. It’s a war term apparently. It’s about getting rid of the other’s arms – their guns. This sounds like a fairly pleasant sort of conversation technique, ‘okay people let’s put our weapons – of aggression, of avoidance, of dishonesty – down and have nice a chat’.

But people don’t usually show up with weaponry – conversational or otherwise – unless they think they’re gonna get hurt. To disarm then is no pleasant task, in my experience it’s a bit more like this:

disarm one

If I am disarming in this sense, if I disarm by entering into a risky situation and saying ‘hey, you don’t need that weapon here, we’re safe’, then that’s great! It’s a tricky but lovely exercise to take up.

Disarming no.2

But, as the friend who I am teaching English to constantly reminds me, English words are rarely kind enough to have a single meaning. ‘Arms’, of course, has another meaning. I’m talking about those arms that grow out of my shoulders, carry my books, and embrace my friends. I need these arms, I don’t want these arms disarmed.

Which makes me wonder, can being disarming sometimes mean getting it wrong and taking someone’s necessary arms instead of their unnecessary weaponry? Am I sometimes stealing someone’s arms mid-way through a conversation a wandering off?

disarm two (2)

I think the compliment fits, but maybe it comes with a quiet warning: disarm, but make sure you get the right arms.


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