Speak Gently

img_1716Remember that old saying, “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all?”  Personally, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it, because I thought that there were times when I just had to speak up, even if what I had to say wasn’t particularly nice.  So when someone made me mad, I vented about it to someone else.  When I saw something that I thought was unjust or illogical, I was quick to complain to anyone who listened, before I even took the time to make sure I had my facts straight.  Often, my words were not at all nice, and I can’t begin to tell you how many times they have come back to bite me in the butt.

Sometimes I found out that the person who made me angry had perfectly good reasons for their words or actions.  Other times I discovered that what I thought was unjust or illogical made perfect sense once I had all the facts of the situation.  People I thought were uncaring or incompetent have surprised me with their helpfulness and competence once they were given a chance to do so.  And in each of those cases, I was left wishing fervently that I had kept my big mouth shut.  Especially when I knew there was a very good chance that the person might discover exactly what it was I said about them.

Even those times when whatever I happened to be complaining about turned out to be true, once I calmed down, I usually wished that I hadn’t been quite so outspoken in my criticism.  Sometimes people are doing the best they can, even if they aren’t living up to my standards, or doing the things that they are supposed to be doing.  Harsh criticism rarely motivates anyone to do better, and treating someone like an enemy can often turn them into exactly that.  In a world where most good things are accomplished through understanding and cooperation, creating enemies is rarely a good idea.

I’m far from a perfect person, and I know there will always be times when my temper gets the best of me and I say things about other people that I shouldn’t.  But I also know that this is something that I really want to work on, because life is so much easier when I don’t have to worry about what I’ve said, because my words were not hurtful.  I can be honest about a problem that needs to be solved, and I can speak against an injustice without being hateful, snide, or smugly superior.  There are many ways to speak the truth, and some are better than others.

We live in a world where technology often spreads our words far and wide, and many of us live in a nation that is going through a particularly contentious time.  Which is why I think that it’s more important than ever that I do my very best to keep my words gentle.  I may not always succeed, but I promise I’m going to try.

56 thoughts on “Speak Gently

  1. Ann, we talked about this a while back and I made a commitment to be more gentle during a very contentious time. Well, I’m afraid I backslid. But, I am soooooo sick and tired of the rhetoric, hit my bottom with it and I’m ready to get on the civility wagon again. Thanks for your great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am right there with you, Larry! I’ve backslid more times than I can count. I think the key is just to keep trying to do better. In the end, we need to feel comfortable with what we have said and done in this life, and we need to model the kind of behavior we want to see in others. That being said, we are also human, and when we feel threatened, or when we see something that we think is just plain wrong, it’s hard not to lash out. But as long as we know that we’re not right when we do that, and as long as we are trying to improve, then I truly believe we are on the right road. Hang in there!!!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This is a tough one, isn’t it. It’s hard to control ones emotions when we see or feel something or someone was wronged.
    When we write something in anger the best thing to do is place it on the side and come back a few hours later before we send or mail it. In most cases, we rip up or delete the letter. We don’t have that luxury when it involves our words. Once they pass our lips they become a scar on the people we’ve directed the words toward.
    Good luck in trying to down at we all struggle with at times. ..:)

    Liked by 3 people

    • You’re right, George, it’s easier when it comes to the written word, because we have the option to hit “delete” before we hit “send.” But once I’ve shot off my big mouth, then the words are out there, and so is the damage I’ve caused. I’m trying to be much more mindful about what I say and how I say it. The election isn’t such a big deal to me, as I wasn’t rooting for either candidate, but I do have a problem at the animal shelter where I volunteer. I sometimes let my emotions get the better of me and forget that we can best help the animals by working together, not by taking our frustrations out on each other. What seems simple to one is complex to another. But when it comes to animals, old people and children, I tend to get a tad impatient when I feel they are suffering without reason…….

      Liked by 2 people

  3. very good article, Ann. I think most of us must feel you have written about what we feel, too. I do – I have been in situations where my (Scorpion) temper has let me down – I find writing my grievances down on paper helps, there is always a delete or off button, but not with spoken words!!:) :)But, having said all this, I find the older I get the more I have sort of ‘mellowed’ – I now dont care so much any more what other people think. But when I am in a queue somewhere (typical english 🙂 ) and men trying to push, and I do mean push, ahead of me and/or other females, I do get annoyed and tell them off (nicely but oh very firmly!) and send them straight back to the other end – and they go!!! This is a bad habit here and an Indian woman will not tell them off but suffer instead – I do not! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, writing my feelings down helps me as well, because that gets the emotion out, and then when I actually talk to someone, I’m calmer and more focused, and able to make my point without being hurtful. And I think you are exactly right to tell the men trying to push ahead of you and other women that you are not going to allow them to do that. Being kind doesn’t mean letting people hurt you, it just means that you stand up for yourself (or others) firmly, but not in a hurtful way. Good for you for doing that!!

      Like

  4. If people were going to be honest to themselves (and I am trying very hard to do just that) ,then they would have to be in complete agreement with you, when it comes to self-control. The other human weakness, which I share with my fellow human beings, is that we are too quick to judge others. But that would be a topic for another post. Thanks for being so honest!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I think we could all work on trying to be a little kinder to each other on a day to day basis. Of course there are times when difficult conversations need to happen but there is a big difference between been honest & being judgmental.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly! It rubs me the wrong way when people try to defend their animosity by saying, “I’m just being honest.” Honesty, when done with compassion, isn’t a weapon. We can have the hard conversations, and take on the big issues, without needlessly attacking each other, I think. It’s not always easy, but I really think it can be done. And I intend to try much harder.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I so look forward to your posts. This one, as always, hit on exact same things I have been struggling with for a very long time. When you figure out a solution to hold your tongue until you have processed a few things, please share. I am in the midst of blogging about this exact topic and I am honestly not liking what I am coming up with. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to your next post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! That’s so nice of you to say! For me, it helps if I just don’t say anything for a few minutes, at least, until I can collect my thoughts and get past the first flash of emotion, whether that emotion be hurt, anger or indignation. I don’t always pull that off, though. I wish there was a “holding cell” somewhere between my brain and my mouth!

      Like

  7. My blog has gotten me in trouble more than once, even when I didn’t mean it to… I use my blog for me really…it’s actually a public journal to help me cope. I admit I’m a bit careful, but not totally. I invite only certain people to join, so others who aren’t invited and find it and slink around, well…read at your own risk. I am anonymous for a reason though. I never mention names, places of work etc…and I’m honest. I try not to be vulgar or rude. Years ago I had a really big mouth and just spouted off all the time and did hurt a lot of feelings. I’m more careful now, but I still say what I think and I call it honesty! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Oh that’s so true Ann, it’s not so much what we say but how we say it. I know I’m often guilty of putting my mouth into action before the brain’s in gear and it’s gotten me in lots of trouble. I seem to be becoming much more open and forthcoming in my old age, which is fine so long as I’m mindful and it’s not damaging. Great post Ann.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. So true.
    I think there’s a saying ‘be quick to listen and slow to talk’. But if it’s not a saying, I might have made it up lol. (too lazy to look it up tight now ) Either way, holding one’s tongue requires great self control and I applaud you for using you gift and power of speech wisely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, sometimes I think I have all the facts, but then I realize that I actually don’t, and should have worked harder at finding them before I spoke. As for the angry words, I get what you mean, but I think I look at it a little differently. I think it’s okay to be angry (we can’t control our emotions even when we want to), but I think it’s helpful to learn to express that anger in a more neutral way. That way, people tend to listen to what you’re saying more and there’s a better chance of fixing the problem or stopping the bad behavior. Of course, there are still times when I don’t follow my own advice at all and let fly with my negative emotions……. Hope all is well with you, and still sending good thoughts for your family!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are probably right, Ann. I’d actually forgotten until you mentioned it, but I actually had to take a lesson in assertiveness training along with my coworkers in a company I used to work for. We were told that the people most likely to benefit from the class would be a) those who never showed their anger and b) those who always showed it. From what I remember, they said that anger is not only unpleasant for all concerned, but is unfocused and doesn’t achieve much. The trick was to express the reasons for our upset clearly but without rancor, to say how it made us felt and why and also to try to move beyond what has happened to what could be done from this point on. I can’t say I’ve been very great at following the advice myself, but I think it is sensible.

        Liked by 1 person

    • All you can do is apologize, and you did that. I think you need to forgive yourself and let go of the guilt. We’re all guilty of saying negative things now and then, and while there’s nothing wrong with being honest, I think it’s how we say it that matters the most. But even then, sometimes we don’t always say it right, and then all we can do is apologize and move one, remembering to try harder the next time. Don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re just being human like the rest of us!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. So much that I agree with here. Are you sure we weren’t separated at birth? Not to mention our age (and I’m older than you) but I think that we do get wiser in some ways. I still judge and get angry, but I understand the ramifications of that, and I try to think that the person who is bugging the crap out of me might have a very good reason to be acting that way. That being said, I hate people going bonkers on social media, and that’s exactly what I did the day after the election, and for several days after that. Politely stated; I didn’t curse or anything like that. But I let it rip. Just the way I hate when other people do it. I’m reminded to try to do the right thing, one day at a time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Who knows? You may be my long-lost twin! (I always wanted a twin sister….)
      An believe me, I know how hard it is not to rant when we are angry, hurt and/or disappointed! I’m guilty of it myself more than I want to admit. But I know it’s not a helpful way to react and causes more harm than good, so I decided it’s time for me to make a real effort to put a better filter between my brain and my mouth. I’ll let you know how it goes!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I agree with the saying ‘if you can’t say anything nice say nothing at all’ but sometimes I wish I could break my silence and say what I’m thinking. To admit when I’ve been wronged instead of silent and appeasing. Still it’s a nicer world where harsh words are never spoken even if it means I’m a little repressed. 😬

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the key is to speak up, but to do so in a civil manner. I don’t think being nice means allowing yourself to be used or abused, it just means making sure you aren’t hurting other people. Of course I would never tell you what to do as you know your own situation best, but if you feel the need to speak up, then I would encourage you to do so. Just choose your words carefully. And thanks for the comment!!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kim! What a nice thing to say. I think I’ve finally learned that there’s no sense in trying to hide our flaws, and that it makes much more sense to just admit to them. And I find myself drawn to people who do the same. I honestly think that is what first drew me to your blog: you wrote so well, and yet so honestly, about what was going on in your life and how you felt about things. And I thought, “Here’s a person I can learn from, and a person I would like to know better!”

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s