By Sunny Simon
The other day two friends asked me to weigh-in on a serious discussion involving when to hold your tongue and when to speak your truth. Great question. We’ve all been there. You’re having a conversation with someone, and they say something that offends you. Do you call them out on it, or let it go?
This is a line from a prayer I recite every morning, “Help me act firmly and wisely without embittering or embarrassing others.” There is much to unpack in these words, so let’s break it down.
Most importantly, act wisely. Refrain from letting your tongue make the decision. If the remark has a sting to it, it may not have been the speaker’s intent. Make the old adage “give the other party the benefit of the doubt” your first consideration.
Next ask yourself if the subject of the discussion is worth a deeper dive. Stated differently, should you just change the subject, or continue on the same path? If it’s a trivial matter, do yourself a favor and let it go. Perhaps the speaker was having a rotten day and not thinking clearly about how his or her words might be perceived. Be kind in your evaluation of the circumstance.
Now let’s examine the flip side. Perhaps the speaker, who could be a friend, or a co-worker, habitually tosses out ill conceived or inaccurate thoughts with no inkling of the consequences. You need not be a doormat. By “acting firmly,” you can put an end to the dialogue of an inconsiderate individual. But before you take on the task, put some serious thought into time, place and your words.
In a group discussion, you risk embarrassing the guilty party in front of others which is not an acceptable option. Plan a one-on-one. Don’t speak in vague generalities, thoughtfully discuss a specific situation and let the individual know how the words made you feel.
Lastly, the person will either get it, or not. Best case scenario, you get an apology. Be forewarned, not everyone takes constructive criticism well. You might be faced with a defensive reply. Tread softly here. You’ve said your piece now say no more and avoid “embittering” the person. Have an exit strategy prepared, and close the conversation with a hug or a handshake if possible. If not, know you’ve done your best.
A final word, whether you hold your tongue or speak your truth, I recommend ending the conflict with an act of forgiveness on your part. After that, you can move on to the sunnier side of life.
Sunny Simon is the owner of Raise the Bar High Life and Career Coaching and the author of the blog www.lifeonthesunnyside.net