Being Tactful

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Being tactful is getting to be a lost art, if you ask me.  It seems to me that people are much more apt to just say (or type) whatever comes to their mind without filtering anything or thinking about the potential consequences.  Not every thought is one that should be shared immediately or exactly the way it popped into our heads.

We’re now a society though where news is reported in little sound bites, articles are full of short one sentence paragraphs, we share lots of little details about our lives through social media, bashing someone through social media is pretty common, and most people feel like they need to express their every thought on every topic, even though they may not know that much about it.  It’s the norm for us to vocalize most of our thoughts right away, good or bad.

That can often lead to a lot of misunderstanding, hurt feelings, divisiveness, negative energy, misinformation, frustration, and so on.  It’s one thing to think you know what to say, but another to know when and how to say it.  Not everyone is open to constructive criticism or hearing other people’s opinions, so things have to be phrased very carefully.  Other people get very defensive if you challenge their opinions or ideas and even take it as a personal attack.  Some people are very easily offended these days, so there’s that too.  Or perhaps they over-interpret things and take things to the extreme.  There are plenty of other situations where being tactful would be beneficial.

It would be nice if there were not so much of a need to be tactful because people were more patient, were better listeners, were more open-minded, and had many other characteristics I have discussed in previous posts.  But that’s not the case, so it is to our benefit to try to be tactful whenever possible.  That requires thinking ahead though, which not everyone is willing to do.  And it requires trying to get your point across without making the other person feel like tuning out or coming back with an adversarial response.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter how tactful you are because of the person on the receiving end, but sometimes it can make a big difference.

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Holding Grudges

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The topic of grudges has been on my mind lately because I recently had a friend admit that she was upset about something that I DIDN’T say (or didn’t say enough) to her last year.  This came out in relation to something she was upset about recently, and it became apparent that she has been holding a grudge about last year and exhibiting passive aggressive behavior towards me in the meantime.  And then when she finally did express her frustration, she didn’t hesitate to include some insults and other very hurtful things.  I would have preferred that she said something a year ago instead, rather than let it affect how she has treated me since then.

Ironically, she is generally pretty quick to tell other people if there is something they have done or said that bothers her.  That’s the other extreme, where we don’t hesitate to point out every little thing.  But that can be difficult NOT to do with the people who continue to repeat the same patterns of behavior that irritate us or hurt our feelings. It’s hard to resist the urge when it happens so frequently.  I can relate to both of the situations, as I too have people in my life who are repeat offenders with plenty of negative behaviors, but I have also hesitated to tell her things that she has done in the past that I didn’t like.  I was willing to overlook the negatives with her because the positives outweighed them.

I understand that it’s difficult to tell people we care about that they have hurt our feelings or disappointed us somehow, especially if we don’t think they are going to react very well.  Or perhaps it’s a matter of not wanting to upset the fruit basket, so to speak.  Unfortunately, when we don’t speak up, things fester, and little things become bigger than they should.  And when we finally have the courage to say something, it often doesn’t come out in the most constructive way. Once my buttons were pushed, it wasn’t difficult to let her know about the negatives I was no longer willing to overlook, just as she was not hesitant to say hurtful things to me.

Neither complaining frequently nor choosing to not say something at all are necessarily the best way to go about dealing with frustration or hurt feelings. Listening to someone complain all the time gets very old and can be mentally draining at times. Yet, holding onto negative feelings for a long time can be just as toxic.  Both can tip the scale so that it seems like there are more negatives than positives in whatever type of relationship.  Somewhere in the middle is probably the best approach where we pick our battles, so to speak, and find a way to constructively point out the things that bother us the most and try to let go of the less significant things. Otherwise, we run the risk of having to decide if we are willing to let go of the friendship or relationship that has become toxic instead.

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Agreeing To Disagree

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Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like more people are having a harder time dealing with other people who disagree with them than ever before.  People are increasingly set in their ways, unwilling to listen to anyone else’s opinion, and more easily offended by anyone who doesn’t share their opinion.

I’ve experienced this both personally with people I know about everyday life situations, and I see it in social media, in the news, and particularly with this presidential race.  I’ve touched on this topic before in a post called “Being Open-Minded” where I talk about not being judgmental, giving people the benefit of the doubt, and not being so set in our ways and how we view the world around us.  It is very difficult to communicate with people who are judgmental, who don’t give people the benefit of the doubt, and who get upset if someone doesn’t view something the same way they do.  Everything has to be worded so carefully and said just at the right time or it’s likely to evoke a negative response.  And it’s frustrating having my intentions questioned when all I am doing is trying to help.  Both can be very mentally draining at times.

People should be allowed to express their opinions as long as it is not being done in a way that is threatening or harmful.  I’m all for being respectful of others and feeling safe in my environment, but it seems to me that some people are so easily threatened or offended by anyone who doesn’t think the exact same way they do.   Continue reading

Being The Victim

Unfortunately, I have a number of people in my life who like to see things as if they are the innocent victims in any given situation, and everyone around them is to blame for everything that is wrong in their lives.  I can appear to be like that too sometimes, but I do realize my part in certain situations and am willing to admit it and try to make changes where necessary.  Just because I may be vocal in trying to discuss how others in my immediate family can and should behave and react to things differently doesn’t mean I think that everything is all their fault all the time.  I am just doing my job as a parent (and spouse) to help them be the best person they can be, especially considering how many bad examples are all around them of how NOT to be a good person.  It makes my job MUCH more difficult.

All too often I get blamed though for things that I shouldn’t, which is very frustrating. Trying to enforce a regular bedtime for my preteen, asking the kids to pick up their belongings that they leave around the house, and suggesting that they get some homework done before dinner so they are not leaving it all until later in the evening does not make me a “control freak.”  It makes me a good parent because I am doing my job trying to teach them how to be responsible, take care of their bodies, and learn time management.  That is NOT unreasonable.  I am also not mean or a “horrible person” because I choose to sometimes give consequences for things like very inappropriate behavior.  Again, I am doing my job as a parent. That’s all.  But it is often not seen that way, even to other adults, including my spouse.

My concern though is also how many adults still operate as if they are never at fault for anything, can’t take ownership of their mistakes or their behavior and attitudes, and who don’t understand that they have the power to change how they do things, how they treat people, and/or the decisions they make.  The saying, “If you always do what you have always done, then you will always get what you have always gotten” comes to mind.  We all have the power to be kinder, more tolerant and patient, more understanding and open minded, more respectful and accountable, improve our communication skills, and so many other things.  We can’t just be takers and never give back to the people who mean the most to us.  We all have to pull our weight, which includes self-reflection to see what we do to contribute to any given problem and what we can do to be part of the solution.

Seeing ourselves as victims of everyone else’s negativity is the easiest way to interpret our surroundings.  In some cases it is more applicable, but it seems to me that it is a whole lot less likely than most people would care to admit.  While figuring out who might be to blame in certain circumstances does have some value, we can’t look to ONLY blame others for all the negativity in our lives and the world around us.  We need to examine our own attitudes, behavior, decisions, prejudices, filters, previous experiences, anxieties, intolerances, and insecurities and figure out how they factor in as well and then figure out if there is anything we can do to help improve the situation.

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Making A Difference

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This is the time of year when most people are a little more conscious of what they can do to have a positive impact on the world around them. We think of ways we can be more giving, whether it’s through volunteering our time or donating money to a good cause. Some people make a conscious effort to think more about the things for which they can be grateful. Then there are those who might consider performing a random act of kindness.  It’s a typical time to do things like thank others who serve us such as people in the military by sending Christmas cards or care packages.

Beyond that, some people focus more on the smaller things that can have a positive impact like finding a way to put a smile on a stranger’s face, using words of affirmation with the people we love, surprising someone with a phone call, or anything along those lines. These are all things that can and should be done year round, of course, but for many people these things are not second nature and require conscious effort, which may be difficult to maintain. They can become second nature though if they are done often enough.

Just as important is to be conscious of how you might be NEGATIVELY impacting those around you and try NOT to do those things. One does not cancel out the other, so (hypothetically speaking) volunteering at a soup kitchen does not make up for speaking to others very condescendingly on a regular basis. All the little things add up, so whether we are making them positive or negative experiences can make a big difference. A day that involves having to park far away from a store because the only close parking spot had two shopping carts with garbage in them left there, people driving unsafely around me, multiple people being rude or impatient, and finding out someone lied to me is a lot different from one that involves a friend texting just to say they’re thinking about me, a stranger complimenting me on my coat, someone offering to return my cart to the store for me, and my kids thanking me more than usual for things I do for them or randomly giving me hugs or telling me they love me. At the end of the day I could be in a completely different mood.

So please take Jane Goodall’s advice and decide what kind of difference you want to make, and hopefully chose to make it a positive difference in any big or small way you can. A multitude of small things can have just as big of an impact as one big thing.

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Coping With Conflict

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Conflict can’t possibly be avoided.  It appears to be everywhere, especially in my house. I even have family members who seem to enjoy creating conflict where there shouldn’t be any.   Everyone has different ways of dealing with it too, including within my family.  That’s what makes it challenging.  Of course, it would be nice if there was a lot less conflict to begin with because people were more tolerant, respectful, and cooperative and less stubborn, impatient, and selfish.  Unfortunately, I don’t see those things changing too quickly.  What would be REALLY nice is if there were better coping skills for dealing with the conflict because while we can’t control what other people do or say or what is happening around us, we can control how we react to it, at least some of the time. Continue reading

I Told You So

It is REALLY challenging to refrain from uttering these words when someone who seems to insist on being right all of the time ends up being wrong about something … again.   A perfect example just happened this week.  I had asked my husband recently to make sure whatever beverage container he put his drink into gets put on his placemat and not directly on the wood table.  He insisted that there’s no way his thermal cup could leave rings on the table due to condensation. Theoretically, they are not supposed to, and most of the time his don’t, but I know I have picked up at least one of the ones he uses before and found a ring on the table more than once and would rather be safe than sorry.  I thought it was a pretty simple request, but he made a big deal about me asking him to be more conscious and treated it like it was a ridiculous request.  Sure enough, I picked up his cup the other day to clean the table and found a small puddle of water underneath it. This was right next to the partial burn ring on the table that was left by him putting a relatively hot bowl of rice there after I asked him to put it on a hot pad instead, and he insisted it would be fine.

I don’t know if it is so much that he doesn’t want to be wrong or just doesn’t want me to be right about anything, but I’m guessing it’s both.  He doesn’t usually utter the words, “You were right” or, “I was wrong” and seldom apologizes in situations like this, at least not without it sounding like it is a struggle to do so or that it is sarcastic rather than sincere.

Unfortunately, these are just more bad examples being set for our kids.   Continue reading