#3 It's Harder to Say Nothing
I wish I could tell you where I heard this little jewel of advice - I think it was in a book or an article - but I simply can't remember. I read and re-read that simple sentence and it stuck with me.
We live in a culture of say a lot, say it loud, and say it often. It's rare to hear the art of listening touted as a virtue, especially when 85% of the entertainment we're offered consists of reality TV stars vying for attention and seeing who can scream the loudest to get his or her insult heard. A little restraint would be welcome in those situations but, the idea behind "it's harder to say nothing" extends to simpler moments, too.
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My personality as a child can best be described as "sassy." I was a bossy, know-it-all type little girl and while speaking my mind was never a problem, listening was. As I got older the consequences of that were made painfully evident. Starting in high school I began to break down my habit to say everything I was thinking and that work continued through college.
I thought I had evolved into a pretty spectacular listener once I moved to New York four years ago but when I came across this one small sentence it gave me pause. I started repeating it in my head in stressful situations. I found that in that "spark moment" (my term for the second after you hear something that makes you angry but before you respond) remembering that "it's harder to say nothing" helped me hear more and say fewer things that were best left unsaid.
I have a sharp tongue. I can shoot witty insults and barbed statements at the speed of light but rarely has that been something to be proud of. I believe firmly in standing up for oneself but I know now that many situations will defuse on their own if in that spark moment I let a quiet calm prevail instead of trying to think of a snappy response.
In arguments with friends and ever more so with my guy, I have found that saying nothing truly is difficult in an emotionally charged situation but in that moment of deciding to stay quiet I often hear something that I would have missed had I spoken out - a soft apology, a snippy remark that reveals the other person is hurt and not trying to hurt me, things that are pivotal to ending an argument with mutual understanding.
It scares me that women (and little girls, especially) are constantly surrounded by influences like the TV shows Bad Girls Club, The Real Housewives, Jersey Shore, or even Gossip Girl where the smallest perceived insult is immediately jumped upon and a disgusting verbal and sometimes physical feud erupts immediately. We may look at these situations and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, but I always wonder how much of that poisonous stuff creeps into our own lives. The impulse to respond in anger is a strong one but it can be quelled and this little sentence has been my best weapon yet--it's harder to say nothing--but sometimes it's the best reaction.
Do you have secrets to keeping your cool in an arguments or becoming a better listener?
I've also found that this phrase relates well to nagging. When you live with a roommate or partner, it becomes really easy to pick and pick at the habits of theirs that annoy you. But, that wears everyone down. Choose your battles and the next time you feel like repeating your grievances for the 100th time, just say nothing. I think you'll find the anger melts away pretty fast, especially if you give your loved one a kiss or hug instead of yelling.
Have a fabulous, relaxing, and safe holiday weekend darlings!