I met her at a wedding I attended recently. She looked gorgeous and she was extremely engaging. She had what I considered ‘content’ and her eloquence was impressive. I was really enjoying her fabulous company, as was everyone else on our table. I thought she was a very admirable person until she gleefully announced to us all “Everyone knows that I don’t take nonsense. I say how I feel to anyone. I don’t hide my own, I just say my mind (sic). I don’t mince words.” Instantly, I knew that the complimentary cards we had exchanged that day were going to be strictly for business/ professional purposes only.
When I hear statements like that, it triggers a red alert in me and I usually beat a fast retreat from people that make them. I never want to be close friends (or maintain any form of close contact for that matter) with people who just say what they feel, when they feel it and how they feel it. These kind of people usually consider it an indication of their strength, openness and honesty but I consider it arrogant, coarse, presumptuous and unkind.
I am not suggesting that one begins to conceal or distort their opinions and their points of view just to please others; all I am saying is that we must learn to pay close attention to how we say the things we must say.
Growing up, I always heard the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me,” but over the years I have discovered it to be so untrue. Knowingly or unknowingly, most of us have been broken or at the very least badly scarred by unkind words-especially those spoken by people precious to us.
Many times I have been accused of being a people- pleaser, a coward or simply ‘playing to the gallery’ because I try to be careful about the things I say to others. Once, someone very close to me actually suggested that I may be dishonest. I struggled with that thought for a long time but I eventually came to the conclusion that I am not dishonest , I just genuinely like people. Because I hurt when people hurt, I have learnt to doctor my speech without changing its content. My goal has come to be communicating without bruising, scarring or even hurting. I try to make sure that I step down from any high horse and say what I need to say with as much thoughtfulness, kindness and care as I can. I can’t pretend that I have succeeded all the time because sometimes the truth is not only bitter but it can be unpalatable too.
Needless to say, while some people consider it niceness, others assume it’s a weakness but I know that pointing out other people’s failures and flaws does not always help them become better. Instead, carefully mincing our words with kindness, thoughtfulness and tenderness actually builds up. Unkind criticisms and harsh judgements, no matter how honest, would usually damage self- esteem, breed resentment and break brittle ‘bones.’
In this New Year, I hope that we all begin to make an effort to be builders and nurturers and not “bull-dozers” throwing our thoughts, opinions and feelings around under the guise of truthfulness.
Have a very blessed year ahead.