Saturday, 13 July 2013

When in doubt, say nowt

I've never been slow in giving my opinion, even when it's not been asked for. I suspect that most of my fellow bloggers are the same, and that's why we like to express ourselves on-line: it's my blog and I can say what I want to! However as we grow older - and hopefully start acting in a more mature way - we learn that there are times and places where it's best to be circumspect before saying what we think.

I believe that if an honest opinion has been asked for, then an honest opinion should be given. Having said that, sensitivity should be a factor too. I remember years ago my neighbour showing me her new baby boy. I felt that a comment was called for and desperately tried to think of something positive to say, as I could not lie and tell her that her baby was lovely when he wasn't. I settled on "He's the image of Al!"  She smiled at me sympathetically, recognising my dilemma, and replied "I know, he's ugly isn't he? I'm just hoping that he will improve with age!"

I don't have this dilemma in Spain, as all babies and young children are "guapo" or "guapa", depending on their sex. There is no question of them not being beautiful: it's the only word that you may use to describe Spanish babies. For a particularly beautiful baby you can of course add a few superlatives, and they are always appreciated.

There are, as I said earlier, times and places when you shouldn't say anything. I was horrified when I was told about the following recent incident. A woman - let's call her Linda - was in the house of a friend whose 70 year old wife had just died that morning.

"I never liked Janice and she never liked me!" Linda announced in front of Janice's grieving husband and daughter. I don't believe in being hypocritical, and I can understand her not wanting to say anything about being sad to lose a great friend if that wasn't the case, but - and a big BUT - was that an appropriate comment to make in the circumstances? Couldn't she have found something less harsh to say, if she felt the need to say anything at all? A sympathetic hug would have been fine. Knowing all the people involved, I was appalled and saddened by this incident. The following day Linda attended the funeral of the woman she didn't like, which to me was definitely a bit hypocritical.

Do you agree? Should honesty be applauded or should Linda have bitten her tongue and said nothing?  By the way, all names have been changed to protect the guilty party.


  1. I believe that too many people are confusing being honest with giving unsolicited (or even solicited but not helpful) opinions.

    If what you are going to say will not help the situation, then I say keep your opinions to yourself.



    visiting from UBC

  2. I believe that hurtful or offensive honesty is definitely not "the best policy". Linda showed extreme insensitivity in hurting someone already in pain. I wonder what motivated her to say that?

    There may be times when we do need to express an honest view, which could be difficult for the listener to hear, but is intended to help the person in the long run. An example of this would be to point out someone's blind spots or character difficulties which affect their relationships and own happiness. This can usually only be in the context of an existing strong and
    trusting relationship.

    Thank you Sue for a thought provoking blog. I too live in Spain where all the babies are guapos!


    visiting from UBC

  3. Oh, my. Didn't her mother tell her that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all? Maybe she wanted to replace Janice.

  4. wow, what a great question. I think it was inappropriate and that if she had that opinion she needed to keep it to herself. If I had an issue with someone I wouldn't attend the funeral if I felt that strongly. It sounds like she wanted attention.

  5. Zip the lips if it can't better the situation. I think far too many people think that they are owed the opportunity to comment on anything that they want (even when not asked) and they need to listen more and speak less.

  6. There has to be a tact with honesty. One doesn't have to be toxic with it.

  7. Definitely have some tact for heaven's sake. We are in the days of Facebook and, unfortunately, people talk more than they think about another's feelings. Great post!

  8. Thank you all for some great contributions to this topic. I think that Katrina may have pinpointed Linda's problem: she likes to be the centre of attention. I'm glad that I wasn't there when she made the comment, as I would have found it very hard not to say something, which might have made a stressful situation even worse. Though I'm sure that I would have had the sense (and sensitivity) to bite my tongue.