When I first saw that quote floating around on social media it really resonated with me in a profound way. It has been my personal philosophy for years without even realizing it. The old adage “honesty is the best policy” means nothing if you can’t speak your mind in a graceful and respectful manner. We live in a world that views “telling it like it is” and being obnoxious as some strong, admirable, tough-guy quality. But any unsophisticated, blubbering fool can blurt out the first thing that comes to their mind without regard for anyone else’s feelings. That really doesn’t take much effort and frankly, I don’t find it impressive. What is, however, a lot harder to accomplish is communicating something negative without making the person feel angry or offended. Bonus points if you can get them to genuinely appreciate your criticism and see that it comes from a place of love.
Today I witnessed first-hand the consequences of poorly executed communication. Tempers were flaring and things were said in the heat of the moment that neither parties really meant. And all because they both were trying to be honest with one another. You ever hear the saying, the road to hell is paved with good intentions? I learned a long time ago that good intentions mean diddly squat because newsflash: people aren’t mind readers! Just because you didn’t mean to hurt someone, doesn’t mean you didn’t. Your good intentions need to be made crystal clear before offering criticism and even then, your choice of words still matter. We can’t always control how people react but we can, however, control our actions to ensure that we are taking the necessary precautions to minimize conflict. We are all partially responsible for how we make others feel.
Some might think this makes me weak for tip-toeing around people’s feelings but I personally see it as a combination of kindness and practicality. People are more likely to respond favorably if they don’t feel personally attacked by you. Common sense, right? Unfortunately, I’ve come across people decades my senior who have yet to figure that out. The best results aren’t always going to be easy and yes, it’ll be frustrating at times. But from my experience, the outcomes are usually worth it. Caring about people even when they make it challenging is a strength I will never apologize for 😉
Earlier today, someone at work mentioned they thought I was an assertive person. It caught me off guard because that’s not how I see myself at all. Independent, yes. But assertive? That was new to me. She said that I was always honest about what I wanted to do, who I wanted to do it with, and that I was always nice about it too. This was coming from someone known for her bluntness so it was even more of a surprise. It was a great confidence boost to know that being upfront (but still kind) was paying off and affecting the way some people see me. I may not be perfect, but I know I’m on the right track of my personal development if I’m getting those kinds of reactions. It has always been a goal of mine to be seen as someone genuine.
Today pretty much confirmed what I’ve known all along:
- Words matter.
- People’s feelings matter.
- Your needs/wants matter.
- You can live by all 3 of those and still find balance in your life with enough effort.