A few days ago, I received a phone call from a cousin of mine who lives somewhere in America. She had this “fantastic” business idea that she was so excited to share with me. She believed her idea would be the best thing in Nigeria since the advent of cell phones. My first instinct was to tell her what I really thought. Her idea was not only backward but it showed that her impression of Nigeria was really warped.
I mean, who would import skipping ropes to sell to primary schools in Nigeria? What for? Her reason was that Nigerian children are bored and need more than computer games to stimulate their learning. Nigeria may not be the most civilized country on earth but I think we are definitely beyond that. That was not the exact business idea, but it was something along those lines.
As she chattered on about her great idea, I lost my nerve. I just could not break her heart. I bit my tongue, swallowed and told her it was a “nice” idea. I tried to discourage her though, by telling her that it might be a stressful and not so viable business in this country but she sounded too excited. I just could not burst her bubble. I told her to take her time and think about it before she takes any action. Last night she called me to say she had changed her mind because it was not such a wonderful idea after all. I am glad I did not encourage her or I might have become the enemy!
We should all tell the truth but sometimes it is difficult. Religion and morals tell us this, but in some situations it is not so easy. A Yoruba proverb says “a kii gbo buburu lenu abore”. This means an Ifa priest does not speak in the negative. Rather than tell a man that all his children and wives will die before him, an Ifa priest would say; the man would be given the gift of long life such that he would outlive many members of his family. Same message, but logic is applied.
How do you tell someone that their hair looks hideous after they have paid big money to have it made that way? You go to visit someone and she goes all out to prepare a big meal for you. How then do you tell her that the food does not taste good? How do you tell an aspiring singer that he sings of key, without being tagged a hater? As Naija people, our modus operandi is to say “I’m on my way” even when you are still at home with your toothbrush hanging out of the corner of your mouth. Yeah, that qualifies as being on your way. At least you are in the process of heading to the place. Did I hear you say “I don’t tell lies!”? Think again sweetheart.
A well-known dilemma is when the fat lady asks you whether she looks fat in her new dress. Especially when you are her husband, if you don’t want to sleep alone on the couch with no company but mosquitoes, you better tell her she looks sexy, voluptuous, chubby, healthy, thick (as in Thick Madame from Phat Girls) or anything but the word fat! That’s not really lying, or is it? As a teacher, would you ever tell your pupil’s parent that their child is dull? No! Tell them, he needs more attention or that he’s a unique student or something else but don’t condemn the poor child.
My definition of diplomacy is “masking an untruth to look like the truth” or “putting the truth in a subtle way. Some people say diplomacy is telling you to go to hell in a way that you even look forward to the trip. I am actually a very blunt person. I like to say it as it is but recently I have also learnt that it is important to consider people’s feelings. It is better to be a bearer of good news. Even when we criticize let us not bring people down. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Before you speak, think again, how true is the truth?
Photo Credit: madamenoire.com
Yinka Ademola is an aspiring author, a PR person, wife and mother-to-be who likes to express herself by writing her thoughts and observations of all sorts, and by cooking! Passionate about transforming Nigeria, she is greatly inspired by its sights and sounds. Find more of her thoughts on Twitter @layinx.