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Monday, May 13, 2013

Choosing Not To Speak

Sometimes the most important thing you can say is...nothing.

We've all been there. A conversation suddenly goes south, and a person we trust takes an opportunity to launch a 'zinger', covered by their own feeling of rectitude.

It came out of left field, and it stung. And you want to hit back.

Usually, we do. We'll launch an attack of our own, but the response is ill-prepared, and has the tone of "oh, yeah? Says who? Your mother wears army boots!"

To make up for its ineffectiveness, you deliver it with vigor and hostility, and things go from bad to worse.

Enough of these, and conversational trust is leached away. You're on guard, now and forever, for the hurt that may be lurking behind the next paragraph.

There's a better way (and no, it's not a more effective riposte).

The better way is to stop, take a breath, and move on, ignoring the hurtful statement. Yes, you were the target, and he was bringing the words from a place that contained resentment, but this isn't the time to explore it.

As an example, I recently had to wrap a friend's hand with an Ace bandage. I only have partial use of my right hand, and was a bit slow, but many years ago I was an EMT.

My friend was impatient, and chose to say, "You really don't have any idea how to do this, do you?"

The temptation was to stop and say, "Fine. Finish it yourself."

I was also tempted to go back later to say that I found the remark insulting, and suggest that such comments be avoided in the future.

Neither course of action was worthwhile. Leaving the job in mid-wrap would have been ethically wrong. Whining about hurt feelings would have been...whining. This individual is prone to quick judgments and a quicker tongue, and almost never apologizes, choosing instead to hold ground and verbally tussle. I don't have the time or the interest in doing that.

And I didn't feel it would do any good. I could have, at best, extracted a growled, insincere "All RIGHT, I'm SORRY." There's a limit to the training an adult will accept.

Let it go.

On the other hand...this may be a self-serving form of cowardice, avoiding a confrontation that's necessary for the relationship, choosing instead to accept unpleasant behavior without correction or reproof. It may have been a disservice to my friend, missing an opportunity to provide gentle guidance that this isn't the way to talk to someone who's helping you.



  1. Perhaps almly stating that you were an emt but your right hand is compromised, therefore your expertise now comes very slowly. The key is a calm response with someone like that.

    1. Good thought! Might have worked. Next time I'll try it.