Have you found yourself watching what you say for fear of an enraged and disproportionate backlash from a prickly family member or antagonistic twitter follower?
Even the most innocuous of responses to public postings be it news, opinions ideas or ramblings brought me a number of irrational, ill-thought out attacks from soap-boxes or darkened basements in 2017. At their core, I suspect they were deep expressions of their own unhappiness.
I was brought up with the old adage, If you can’t say something nice, then say nothing at all. It’s what I’ve tried to do most of my life – to frame and reframe my responses to people in all manner of situations by considering the impact it has on them. Can I say the same thing without being hurtful or critical? Will my words pare them to the bone or undermine a wobbly sense of self. Do I care if they do?
Well, yes I do care. What’s more I care deeply when responses to me are loaded with venom. I appreciate constructive comments and criticism to something I’ve said but I see no point engaging in verbal battles when I’ve been personally attacked because my lifestyle or background is at odds with theirs.
I’m sure many of you can relate to this especially of late. Maybe you’re made of tougher stuff than I am and you feel a discharge of positive energy when you destroy their arguments with harsh words to gain the upper hand. I don’t. It’s so much wasted energy which could be put to better use.
We live in an unkind world. We’re saturated with articles and adverts about getting fitter, thinner, richer, more successful but when did you last read a feature about being nicer?
I used to advise my trainees over the years when I taught the psychology of communication, not to use the word nice as it was weak and lacked description. Nice is a lazy word for when you can’t find something meaningful. I’ve changed my mind on that. Niceness is like clean fuel to power new relationships based on being more patient, tolerant, less irritable, less dominant or critical. Being nice is about being polite, respectful and kind. It costs us nothing but might require swallowing down heaped tablespoons of righteous indignation. Let it go. In a year or two or on your death bed, whatever has caused the blood to curdle won’t matter anymore. Whenever I’ve succumbed to harsh language, I regret it within minutes.
My 2018 favour to myself is to keep quiet and not express any opinion unless asked for, whether that’s within my own family, to friends or on social media. If I do feel the need to say something then it will be done with the utmost kindness and consideration for them as fellow humans. In the words sung by Ronan Keating, you say it best when you say nothing at all.