A point to ponder, for today – but perhaps not the one you think!

Remember when I said I’d start listing products and their descriptions as far as preparedness is concerned? Yes, I do too – it just seems that I keep running across other things that, to me, are worthwhile subjects on which to post. I haven’t forgotten, honest! Keep coming back.

The image for today’s post, in case you can’t see it, says the following: “I’m only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand.” Now, if you’re like me (and I’ll gladly tell on myself), you probably had the same reaction I did; namely one of “YEAH! Take THAT, you thin skinned beggars! If you get offended, that’s not MY problem!” Hopefully, as you continue reading, you’ll also come to the second part of that line of thinking, as I have, as well.

This saying, at first blush, seems like a cure for our hypersensitive, easily and almost constantly “You’ve offended me!” culture. At this point, I know I am weary to death of the seemingly endless list of things that people get offended over, hurt by, and seek to make others apologize for. It seems that being truthful now equals being mean. Being honest now equals being cruel. If you really love and accept others, you’ll never, EVER say anything about ANYTHING they do, because you’ll just accept them the way they are. This statement  puts the onus right back where it belongs – on the listener, for whether they are offended or not. Great, right? Well, not so fast. We, as the speaker, still do have responsibilities in what we say, and how it can affect what others hear and understand. The first part of that statement is true. Consider the classic sitcom situation in which the wife asks the husband if a dress looks good on her. Setting aside for a moment the fact that, because it’s a sitcom there’s no “good” answer because it’s a comedic setup, consider these two answers:

  1. “No, I really have to say that I don’t think that looks good on you. It doesn’t compliment you/your figure, I don’t care for the color/design”
  2. “Are you kidding? That hideous thing looks like you went to Omar the Blind Tent Maker to have it made. I’ve never seen something so ugly.”

Both answers, essentially, say the same thing; the person doesn’t like the way the dress looks. One answer, however, is tactfully honest and expresses the opinion without a lot of loaded emotion/emotional terms, while the other is brutally (even cruelly or obnoxiously) honest, and loaded with emotionally charged terms.

O.K., so what’s the Boot of Truth? How does this apply, or conversely, NOT apply? Well, let’s look at that. In the example given, the speaker is responsible for what they say. They are responsible for the content of what they say, and for making sure that it is given in a manner that is appropriate to the situation. (Sometimes, a hard truth needs to be said, and said plainly. There may not be time for tact, nor may it be appropriate. In some professional situations, or situations between persons, tact can be misconstrued as cringing, or as being subordinate.) I would go so far as to say that this is true in all situations; the speaker is responsible for what they say and how they say it – a lesson that I am still learning, and re-learning. No pedestals here! However, the second part of the statement may or may not be true.

In the case of the first answer, if the person posing the question then becomes offended and angry, I believe that the person answering has no responsibility for that; nothing to apologize for. Some people, unfortunately, want to ask questions but don’t want honest answers. Others will choose to be upset no matter what. Still others don’t want answers at all – they only want you to stroke their egos.

In the case of the second answer, however, there can be little doubt in my mind that not only would the speaker be responsible for giving offense to the person asking, but very probably should not be surprised if they rather suddenly get something heavy upside the head! Some people, unfortunately (and here I hang my head, remembering those days in my life) take a perverse pleasure in simply beating down other people and being harsh with them, for many different reasons. They hardly can say “Pfft. Not MY fault you got offended” with any honesty when they do so. Believe me, I tried. It didn’t work, and I wish I’d seen it sooner.

(Along with all of this, remember that there are, unfortunately, those who will choose – that’s the operative word – choose to be offended, no matter what. Whatever the reason is, those people are better off avoided. There are enough stresses and problems in life without having to constantly coddle and hand-hold people who, no matter what, how something is said or why, will take the road of being upset, angry, offended by it. That’s not what we’re talking about in this case. The responsibility does, indeed, lie with them – not with you.)

I’ll close with these two statements, taken from a podcast found here that deals with the topic of “Tact vs. Dishonesty.” I hope you’ll find it as enlightening as I have. The statements follow, below.

“Honesty should not be an excuse to be cruel, and kindness should not be an excuse to be dishonest.”

“Separate the content of your communication from the form and make sure that the content is honest, and that the form of the communication is appropriate for the situation.”

God bless, today, my friends!