Thursday, December 21, 2006

Verbally Chained

Who hasn't suffered through a similar situation? You say something awkward and push your foot even further into your mouth when you try to backpedal--but wind up saying something even worse. Honesty is the best policy, they say. Sure, but I think tact and diplomacy are important, too.. I mean, why imply or tell a man that he looks like a wart on a toad's back if it doing so would serve no good purpose? Why tell a woman that she's too melodramatic when probably all that she's doing is trying to sharing her frustrations?

Sometimes, though, some of us go overboard on this tact thing, especially when it comes to the people we care about. Maybe to avoid offending someone or hurting someone's feelings, we sugar-coat our words or subject them to twists and turns until they're so convoluted that what comes out bears only the slightest resemblance to our original thoughts. We rationalize, saying to ourselves that what we're doing is ultimately for their benefit: to spare them the slightest bit of embarrassment or self-consciousness. Or maybe some of us do it to avoid bodily harm ourselves. (Honey, do these jeans make me look fat?) Haha!

Say what you mean and mean what you say. But sometimes we mean what we don't say or do, which is pathetic because the message doesn't reach the party for which it was intended. We bite back the words that we originally meant to utter.

Yes, it can be especially frustrating if we find ourselves guarding what we say--not out of fear of offending the other person--but to protect ourselves from hurt. We're afraid that by being honest about what we think or feel, we are left vulnerable to whatever it is that that other person will say or do in reaction to what we say. We feel defenseless, naked even. And so we keep the conversation abnormally light-hearted; we hedge, hem and haw, go around in verbal circles. The mentality is that "I won't give you the chance to hurt me because of what you'll learn about me. Never mind that I'm not sure you will. Better to be safe than sorry."

Pride? Or perhaps hubris?

So we decide to leave important things unsaid. Feelings are chained inside and left unexpressed. Instead, we settle for near-meaningless chitchat, indulge in niceties, refuse to free the thoughts that are clamoring to be spoken. Because of this, misunderstandings arise, miscommunication occurs, relationships come to a standstill, emotional intimacy isn't given the chance to blossom--all because we decided to hold our tongues, because we decided to hold back. And something precious dies even before it's born.


Woman In Chains
By Tears for Fears
BestAudioCodes.com

25 comments:

Aileen said...

Very well said...I wrote a post recently on the same topic:

http://infiniteconnections.blogspot.com/2006/12/say-what-you-mean.html

Your post brought me some clarity and reassurance.


Thank you!

Lizza said...

Thank you, Aileen! I'm off to your site to read your perspective on this topic.

Prometheus said...

Yer damn right. Why don't people say what they think. (I love ya Liz).

Dr. Prometheustein is working on a thought interface. Ya know, kinda like 'What Women Want' but without having ta get electrocuted first.

Matt-Man said...

As typical I agree with you Lizza. Case in point, I would still be in a bad marriage if I had not told the truth when my ex-wife asked me this: "What are you thinking?"

BTW...You did it again. "Verbally Chained" is that like having a ball gag in your mouth?...HOT!!

mist1 said...

I told my friend, "Wow! You've lost A TON of weight!"

It seems that one should never say "a ton" when talking about weight.

Wendz said...

I always used to put my foot in it. Honestly I had such a careless mouth and hurt people unintentionally.

Now days I am very careful of what I say. Very. I have been burned too often.

But - in a relationship..yes...honesty. Please.

Dan said...

The best strategy for dealing with foot-in-mouth disease is to fake an epileptic fit. It works for me every time. ;)

nunu's mum said...

Liz, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that song!!! It's one helluva POWERFUL song sung by that lady who sounds as though she IS the woman in chains. (Incidentally, I just found out that Roland Orzabal & Curt Smith 'discovered' her in one dingy jazz bar somewhere in southern US, both blown away by her voice & the rest of course is history...

Anyway, I agree with what you wrote. Although I'm finding (in my peculiar situation) that the only way I'd survive this ordeal is by keeping my mouth shut, indulge in meaningless/slit-thy-wrist type of chitchat, and leave my thoughts totally unexpressed. This way, I get on fine with everyone and keep their feathers unruffled. Honesty would more than likely get me glassed.

Anyhow,in the words of John & Yoko, 'I'd like to wish you a very merry christmas & happy new year!!!'

lastlifeinmyuniverse said...

i personally feel if one has nothing good to say, they should shut the f**k up. unless it needs to be said, well then okay.

H said...

Ahhhhhhhhhh Liz. you said it again. and again. and again.

foot in mouth... girl, my mum birthed me that way. from day one... started with my grandma... [how she despised the [toe stuffed]cheek of her arsey little grand-daughter.]

And then it went on... from family member to family member to friends and boyfriends...

they even considered mouth tampons to soak up the vile stuff that oozes... nay pours abundantly from mine oral orifice.

sadly. we've yet to find a solution. the monster is a relentless bastard.

Lizza said...

Prometheus: You're so sweet! Right back at ya. And I'd really like to know what that Promethean mind comes up with re 'what women want.'

Matt: I'm almost afraid to ask what your answer to your wife was. So you think a ball gag's hot, huh? Hmmm...

mist1: Wow, you gorged on your foot on that one.

Wendz: You gotta give me some tips. I still know some people who can't seem to keep their feet out of their mouths.

Dan: That sounds a lot better than just plain awkward silence!

NM: Yep, it's a great song. Meaningless chitchat is fine sometimes, but not when there's something that needs to be said and if the person you're talking to matters to you. But I see your point, nakakainis nga naman ang akalain na taklesa ang isang tao na tulad ni kristeta. :-D Merry merry and happy happy to you too!

Deb: I agree. :-)

H: Haha! You really have a way of describing things so effectively. You know, a kissss (done often and rightly enough) can get the monster bastard to shut up. :-)

ShadowFalcon said...

"say what you mean and mean what you say" I do agree with this but sometimes what I want to say is just too cruel...I think this is why I should smile and nod...

Odat said...

"...and something precious dies even before it's born." Hindsight is 20/20 vision....as we grow and experience life...lessons are learned...and it's in these lessons that our lives unfold, good or bad...We must learn from them though. and keep going forward and not repeat our mistakes. I have no idea if that makes sense...but it's what just came out.
Peace

Aisby said...

I can't say things delicately. I either put my foot in my mouth, or I don't open it at all. I can either come across as rude, or continue to live with "I should have said..." And of course, I replay the moments over and over again in my head coming up with the perfect words that never came out at the time they were needed.

Natalia said...

Not just when you do say something awkward but even when you do not mean it.

Just today, leaving a meeting, I jokingly said to a colleague "Oh careful so and so is gonna run us over." It was meant to be a joke. But so and so took it seriously and said "No, I just didn't expect you to walk out in front of my car." Ugh. I hate miscommunication

Natalie said...

I used to always say what was on my mind, tact be damned. Then I grew up. There is a time and place for honesty and a time and place to be nice. sometimes they are even the same time and place. Like the new look by the way.

Prometheus said...

Hmpf... Now you've gone and put this new template and stolen all Prometheus' thunder. He wanna be the only one wid the new 3-column stretch template he made himself.. Now Prometheus gotta go throw a tantrum. Some friend...

Lizza said...

Shadowfalcon: I'm guilty of that, too. I just shut up instead of risking offending someone else.

Odat: I try not to repeat my mistakes, I really do. Sometimes I succeed. :-)

Aisby: And wish that we could turn back time somehow.

Natalia: It's frustrating sometimes when other people's sense of humor is on a different wavelength.

Natalie: Thanks! Finding the balance between tact and honesty is hard work sometimes.

Prometheus: I got punished already, mon ami. And I didn't steal any of your thunder. Yours was up and running a few days before I got around to doing this!

Bud Weiser, WTIT said...

Lizza-
I have never written a post on this prospective. I needed to clarify that. Would not want you looking for it.

Seriously, a lot of truth here. I have learned that some questions are not asked so the one who questions wants truth, but rather, the one who asks wants validation.

I think. I also think you said it better...

thethinker said...

Speaking of awkward situations, my dad told me about the time when he walked into a business meeting with a woman who had put on a few pounds since the last time he'd seen her and he just assumed she was pregnant. He even asked when the baby was due.

Needless to say, you don't want to make that mistake when that person is your client.

Lizza said...

Bud: Haha! You got me confused for a minute there. But I agree, sometimes validation or approval is what's being sought, not the truth.

Thinker: Ouch! That's probably one of the worst boo-boos that a man can commit.

Prometheus said...

Jeez, Prometheus' been commenting all wrong. His brains are a tad more addled than they are normally.

Prometheus' first comment up there maybe construed to mean: Aww Liz, cmon, you can tell Prometheus that you are attracted to him. Speak your mind girl. He wouldn't mind if you tell him you letch at him.

Lizza said...

I won't tell you that. You kiss and tell. ;-)

Kiyotoe said...

how did i miss this one? Anyway, i have a note/sign on the back of my office chair for all of my employees to read. It says: "Say what you mean and mean what you say, or don't say anything at all".

I try to live by this credo but like you said, when it comes to those we really care about, it's not easy to always be 100% forthcoming and upfront, but holding your tongue can also be dangerous.

Prometheus??? i'm so jealous.....

Lizza said...

Kiyotoe: To speak or not to speak, what a conundrum.

Prom and I go way back (like three months or so in the blog world). Fantastic guy! He's known as Philandering Prometheus; he loves everyone and everyone loves him. :-)