We’re taught to speak up for ourselves. We’re rewarded for being confident. Society tells us to stand up and be counted and that our voices should be heard. But, in reality, there are plenty of times when keeping it zipped is the right thing to do.
Shouting people down might sometimes be the best tactic – but not normally. More often than not, keeping a tight reign on that tongue of ours is likely to be the sensible and most rewarding thing to do; it’s also likely to be the most difficult thing to do.
What follows are some examples of times when keeping our tongues in check would probably be the right thing to do.
Avoid Offending Someone
If you realise that what you are about to say will upset someone who you actually care about – think twice… and then a third time. Even if you think you are being “honest,” and that you are correct, if you know that what you are about to say will have a substantial affect on them, hold your tongue.
The modern mantra is “I’m just being honest,” but that is no excuse to say something that will upset someone for personal gain.
Sometimes, it is important that a person hears an uncomfortable home truth, but just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should say something. For instance, we all know we shouldn’t wander the streets pointing at overweight people and shouting “you’re overweight… I’m just being honest.” So there’s obviously a limit to how “honest” we need to be or should be.
Being offensive is very easy to do. As an atheist, I could upset any religious person I came across: “God doesn’t exist and there is no heaven… I’m just being honest.”
But, I don’t do that, because no one would benefit from me saying it; they would be upset or offended and no one would be any further forwards. If no one will benefit from your words, consider keeping them to yourself.
Obviously, being honest is important, I’m not saying we all need to start lying, but honesty can be a weapon, and it shouldn’t be used as such.
On the other side of the coin, this isn’t about dishonesty, it’s about putting other people’s feelings first. If you know that in the long run what you are going to say will help them have a better life – perhaps you genuinely believe that a few home truths would save them from an imminent disaster – then that is a good time to start speaking.
However, you need to be sure that’s the case before wading in. Don’t speak when you are heated. Your moral compass will always be pointing in the wrong direction at that point.
Shhhh… It’s A Critique
If someone is giving you some feedback, a critique or advice, it is nearly always best to keep it schtum.
If the people giving you the feedback are spot on in what they say, obviously you should be listening. But even if the people speaking are way off the mark (or at least you think they are way off the mark) it is still best to keep on listening.
By listening to someone who you don’t agree with, you are showing strength, you are showing resilience and, guess what, you don’t know everything, and even if they only get only one thing right, they could teach you something valuable.
Additionally, by speaking over someone during a critique, it sounds like you are saying “I will not listen to criticism” which basically makes you come across like an ego maniac.
No one in this world is perfect, we all need as much advice as we can get. Even if listening only tells us that we disagree with someone, we’ve still learned something.
Hold Your Tongue If Rage Is Around
We’ve all done it, and some of us have lived to regret it – we’re having a heated debate with someone and, because we know we can, we say something that pushes their buttons and they totally lose it.
That’s bad ju-ju all round. It’s so easy, in the heat of the moment, to say that one thing you know will upset someone – it’s never a good idea.
You choose the easy route when you say the thing that you know will hurt someone’s feelings. It’s a low blow, and in a way it’s cheating. If it’s that easy to upset a person with something that we say, they are obviously either weak or having a really tough time. There’s no need to kick someone when they’re down.
Also, remember, if you are heated, then the likelihood of you telling anyone something constructive and useful is pretty low. The best thing anyone can do when they are upset is to pipe down. Sleep on it. Honesty is not always the best policy.
Sometimes, by saying something in anger, we actually make ourselves (and the other person obviously) more angry. No good can come from that. If you hold your tongue, the situation is less likely to escalate.
Also, you will come across as the better person and will be remembered as the boy or girl who backed down and saved face, rather than twisting the knife.
Overall, deciding on whether to say something that is on your mind or not is a pretty difficult ask. It shouldn’t be, but it is. It would be nice to think that we could all get along and speak nicely and honestly to people all of the time.
But that’s not how humans work unfortunately. There are egos, hurts and histories.
I guess the simplest rule to follow is this: don’t lash out if you are angry and make sure you think before you speak.
If we could all follow those two simple rules, the world would be a better place; they are deceptively difficult to stick to, though. All you can do is try your best.