Ruth Anne Mak
I usually write about connections and sharing with others. I don’t often write about being quiet and keeping our thoughts to ourselves, but I think this practice can be just as important, sometimes even essential, to nurturing that connection we share with the rest of the universe. Some people tend to consider things for awhile and not comment until they have sorted it out in their minds if they say anything at all, some tend to speak their minds through a filter of consideration for the listener’s feelings, and of course some tend to blurt out whatever comes to mind regardless of consequence.
As I mentioned before, I usually suggest great communication, which includes listening without forming our own next thoughts and being respectful while still sharing our thoughts and needs when appropriate. You can find books on assertive communication, couples communication, and etiquette in general, but I have noticed that one seemingly lost art is often overlooked. I’m not claiming that there aren’t books written on it as well, but apparently not enough people are reading them if there are. The art I am referring to is the art of knowing when to be silent on a topic or in a conversation.
Now I’m not saying that I have totally mastered this art, since I’m one of the people who speak their minds through a filter of consideration for the listeners’ feelings, and I’m definitely not perfect and don’t expect anyone else to be, either. But today I’m not talking about the little slips we all make and I’m not advocating that we all sit around and stare at each other afraid to say the wrong thing. We’ve all experienced situations where no one says much because everyone is trying to be invisible or has any clue what to say without sounding silly. I’m referring today to those times when the kindest, most reasonable, and most mature thing to do is to clamp our jaws closed and breathe instead of speaking.
I read a fair amount of news online, and of course each story has comments after it. That can be a good thing and I wouldn’t say to stop having comment sections, but if you ever doubt that being silent is becoming a lost art just read a few comments after just about any news article. Please don’t get caught up in reading them or you may end up sucked into the black hole of answering the comments that are obviously nasty, wrong, or hateful. But take a moment if you doubt me and see how victims of disasters brought it on themselves, should have known better, or how accidents were really a conspiracy or full blown crime. I’m not saying that all people feel how the “sharks” seem to feel, and I’m not naive enough to think that the comments even represent much of the population’s opinions, but it is disturbing to see the feeding frenzies that ensue after even the simplest, least controversial topics are presented. If we went through and marked out comments that were uncalled for, rude, unkind, nasty, or totally bizarre there would be few comments left. I’m not saying people don’t have the right to post them if the site allows that type of comment, but isn’t it time to start thinking before we speak or type?
Yes, you may be thinking by now that I should just stop reading the comments and you are right, which is why I don’t read them often. It isn’t only news article comments, though, since this trend has spread to blog comments, message board posts, call-in comments on radio and tv shows, and editorials in newspapers. I would say it is extending past those outlets into real life in some cases as well, also.
It’s very tempting to want to “fix” people that we think are wrong and misguided, are making bad decisions, or are, as some would say, a “waste of space” on the planet. While I don’t use that term and learned a long time ago that we can’t fix anyone but ourselves, I do agree that many people might need a bit of “fixing”. The problem is that they might feel I need a bit of fixing myself, so if we are all trying to fix everyone else we won’t be working much on ourselves.
So I propose that we all listen to what others are saying and not focus on how we could make them better. That would mean that if we hear someone say something we don’t agree with, but that isn’t really factual but instead an opinion, and it wouldn’t do anything positive to correct the person, that we simply hold our tongues. Actually, I’m not suggesting anyone else do this since I promised myself not to fix anyone except myself, but my thought is that we really could make the world a better place if we all decided to perform the kindness of just closing the window on the computer, not answering the text until we consider our answer or maybe not at all, took a few breaths before we straightened out the neighbor or our spouse, and let it go.
Yes, this is hard to do sometimes, but I’m going to try it more often. I’m going to smile to myself every time I manage to refrain from making a comment that wouldn’t help and very well might hurt someone. Would you like to join me? Wouldn’t it be a lot more fun if we ended up smiling a lot more and saying things we will probably regret less often? What have we got to lose, right? And no one will know why you’re smiling, which can be rather fun in itself.