In my blog post of a few weeks ago, “Speak Up or Shut Up” I brought up the topic of when to speak up, whether to say anything at all and finally, how to say what you want to communicate in the best way and coming from the right consciousness. That post concluded that for the most part, we have to speak up.
There are certainly times when it is better to keep quiet. For instance, if what you have to say will be offensive to someone, without any possibility of resolving an issue or changing their stance, then it may be best to let that go. This is easier said than done, of course, because when our ego has decided that someone else’s view is wrong-headed, our ego wants us to express that viewpoint. In these terms, if one was honest with themselves, their desire to speak is stemming from their desire to be right. And we all know the age old question, “Would you rather be happy or would you rather be right?”
Another time when it may be a good idea to hold your tongue is in situations where someone is offering constructive criticism. Notice constructive, that’s important. Because if someone is being critical in a petty or mean-spirited manner, you are well within your rights to end that conversation. There’s another saying I love, “You teach people how to treat you.” If the criticism is constructive, we still may feel attacked and defensive. It’s a very human response. Rather than speak back defensively, instead listen and give the feedback some time to sink in. You may find that what at first seemed unfair or wrong becomes useful information. Regardless, whether you end up agreeing or disagreeing, you learn something valuable about yourself, and perhaps most importantly, you become known as someone others can talk to, who listens openly and fairly weighs ideas.
Occasionally, we get drawn into heated debates. The tension escalates and our ego is desperate to have the last word. Anytime you feel yourself wanting to say something that’s only purpose is to intensify someone else’s anger, you should not say it. Instead, explain that tensions are too high to continue the discussion and that you’d like to talk about it again later. Set a time, be it 10 minutes, or next Tuesday. Give everyone time and space to cool down.
Right along the same lines, if saying something would only make you angrier, it’s better to hold your tongue. Everyone at some point has been at the point of ‘losing it’. Your body begins to respond by increasing your heart rate, your palms are sweating and your hands are shaking. This is not a good time to say anything. Take a deep breath and come back to the situation later when you are calmer.
Anyone with a Facebook account knows what a troll is, and not the creatures under the bridge demanding a toll. When confronted with a troll, either online or in real life, the best advice is to not engage. These people are being purposefully strident and provocative and your righteously indignant response actually feeds them. Online, ignore them and walk away. In real life, simply respond to hostility and malice by saying, “I will not dignify that with a response.” Or say nothing at all. In this instance, your silence is far more powerful than any words could be.
In the world there are people who will try to goad you into saying something to trap you. Like trained trial lawyers, they get you into their arena and it feels like you’re in the jaws of a lion. Anything you say will be wrong. Like a school yard bully, they belittle and ensnare, seemingly blocking off any routes of escaping with your dignity. If you get caught in a verbal sparring match with one of these masters of manipulation, walk away. There is no winning in that situation. If you can, explain that you are not prepared to have the conversation and exit as gracefully as possible.
Thought Into Action
Looking back, is there a time in your life when you said something that you wish you could take back? I don’t support dwelling on the past, but I do find value in analyzing past mistakes so that they can inform better decisions for the future.