The blooms on the clematis have disappeared, but this remains. A lovely little pinwheel, which is just as beautiful – at least to me.
Recently, a friend of mine asked another person her opinion of some cosmetic work she had done to her place of business. The response was quick, blunt – and hurtful. It was delivered rather blithely, without any consideration for the questioner’s feelings. And it did the trick, the person who originally asked the question was left feeling hurt and embarrassed.
When I hear about that kind of thing, I get mad. I want to ask the responder, “Why on earth would you say something like that?” I feel very protective of the person with the hurt feelings.
I don’t understand how anyone can function that way. But I see it rather frequently, always under the guise of “I say what I feel.” Or, “I speak my mind.”
Really? I think it’s more about a lack of social skills and a sense of what is appropriate and what is not. A lack of empathy. A lack of consideration for someone else’s feelings.
I know people like that. I bet we all do. I’ve been on the receiving end of those kind of comments.
What happened to “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?”
There is a way to give an honest response that is still positive and compassionate. But better yet, there is a way to respond that doesn’t involve your personal opinion (because that’s just your perception, isn’t it?) and leaves the questioner feeling good about him/herself. Because it doesn’t really matter if you like it or not. It’s not about you.
Unfortunately, we see that kind of thing all over the place on reality television and on political talk shows. We see it in unkind responses and critiques on blog posts or design sites. Just what are we teaching the younger generation about compassion and kindness?
We run into this sort of situation all of the time in the theater. We see our actor friends in various productions and we go backstage to congratulate them. Let’s be frank: sometimes we don’t like the play, or the direction, or even the performance itself. But we always find a way to be positive about the whole thing. No one needs our ‘critique’ at that moment in time; an especially vulnerable moment, I might add. No one who has tried something new, who has taken a risk, who has created something, who has been brave enough to put it all out there, needs a negative comment. It accomplishes only one thing: it hurts someone’s feelings. And for a brief moment, it pumps up the ego of the negative commenter. That’s when a response isn’t really about the person who asked the question. It’s about the ego of the responder.
Maybe because I work as a teacher and a coach and surely because of the way I was raised, I have always known that criticism needs to be framed in a positive way. In those situations, I am supposed to help the student or the actor. I’m there to help make them the best they can be in that role or that classroom. And we all enter into the relationship knowing that there will be critiques, because that’s part of the bargain. But I never use the role of being a teacher or a coach as an excuse to say something hurtful. Never.
As for the everyday interactions we have with friends and acquaintances, so what if I don’t like someone’s taste in decorating, or clothes, or cars? I may look at someone’s living room and think “I don’t like that design at all.” But what I feel does not need to be expressed to that person. It simply doesn’t. It serves no purpose. The “You know me, I always speak my mind” kind of hurtful comment really has no place in a respectful and compassionate relationship.
Because what does it accomplish? Nothing. It’s unkind. It’s ego-driven, which momentarily makes one person feel good at the expense of another.
I love the word kind. My dictionary provides this definition: Having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature. Being kind is a good thing.