“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all!” – Thumper, Bambi
I’m sure we’ve all heard this quote (or a version of it – possibly without the double negative!) at some point in our lives. Our parents used it to kerb our critical opinions – particularly when we defended our outbursts because they were the “truth”. But then, we’ve probably all used it ourselves. Mostly as a passive aggressive (emphasis on the aggressive) way to say that we have a negative opinion but we’re far too polite to tell you what it is. Yes, because that’s an effective way of defusing a conflict – at no point ever in the history of defusing conflict!!!!
I love Kid President’s rewording.
Here are three options to “not saying anything at all”.
Choice #1 – think harder
Emotion, defensiveness, fear and tiredness can all make us feel there is nothing nice to say. In times when our thoughts, feelings or option seem overwhelmed by the negative, we all can pause and think harder.
Where is the potential positive? What can be encouraged or affirmed? What can be understood or explained? What alternate perspective could be explored?
Choice #2 – choose honesty
“Not saying anything at all” is a choice to withhold truth. Sure, there are times and places where hearing the truth would be more palatable but the truth is always our friend.
In fact, the truth from a friend is the best. It’s better than a withheld criticism and it’s certainly better than silence – where we are left to guess what the other is thinking.
Choice #3 – choose empathy
Any attempts we make to feel what another might be feeling will stand us in good stead to make a better response than silence.
What might they be fearing? What disappointment might they be anticipating? What questions might they be asking? What insecurity or jealousy buttons are being pushed?