There are at least 1-2 people in our lives that we put in the important category. Whether it is lovers, friends or family, these are the people that we support and who can be supportive to us in one way or another. You may have heard the concept that honest and effective communication is important and I am sure we all strive to be that open person in those important relationships. However, being honest, when it is not good news, can be difficult to express.I would be lying if I said that I am always straightforward with others. No matter the connection, there is always silence in a relationship. While this is not the best practice, it does seem to happen.
Do I look fat in this dress?” If you say yes even though it is the truth, it can impact the relationship negatively. While one would say that this should not be the case, it is the reality. Sure, we should all be tough adults who can handle the truth or someone else’s thoughts or questions on a matter. However, people tend to take offense and believe that the other party does not have the best intentions. I remember many years ago I raised concerns about the person a friend of mine was dating. Needless to say, I got a lot of pushback and the friendship ended. When I used to do therapy, I would get the same response from some clients.
A 15 year marriage recently ended due to one individual having an affair. Actually, the marriage probably ended long before the affair started but regardless at what point in that relationship did either the couple or the people who cared about them went silent? If a friend is making questionable choices or acting differently, when is it your place to intervene or keep silent? If a family member is making potentially life altering choices who says you should always speak up?
I keep silent for a number of reasons. I keep silent because I don’t think the person is ready or willing to hear my observations. I keep silent because I believe I have nothing more I can say. I keep silent because the other person may be too sensitive and may perceive my insight as hostile. I keep silent because sometimes I feel too tired to want to deal with the resistance. I keep silent because I take the person’s cue that he is not open to suggestions at all. Frankly, I keep silent because sometimes I just don’t feel like getting involved.
So when is it a good time to break that silence? When you notice something is a little off? When there is obvious danger? Or after the person have fallen off the cliff and is broken? For people that you care about, it can be very difficult to keep silent and allow that person to find her own path no matter what the consequence. It is sort of like seeing the issue but quietly praying for the best. Does that make you the bad person in that relationship? I once read a book in which a Christian wife said that she knew her husband was making a mistake but she kept silent because she believed it was God’s role to correct him, no matter the consequence, not her. Yep, I snickered and vehemently disagreed. However, over the years, I have found myself in that silent role praying that God or someone else take the responsibility off my hands to speak up.
So, the worse things than can happen if you speak up is to lose a relationship with the intended audience, hurt feelings, or your assessment of the situation could be wrong. What would Jesus do? Well, He had both direct and indirect ways of passing on his messages. Lucky for Jesus, He knew his time was short and he was not highly dependent on others for a lifetime of relationships so his example may not fit. Exhibiting classic cognitive dissonance, I don’t believe in silence in a relationship; however, I do practice the thing in which I do not believe. Welcome to the complexity of the human nature.
Interestingly, if I were the one making errors, I would want the people closest to me to speak up. Yep, totally hypocritical! I have had one or two people point out some things to me of which I was not fully aware. I had to take a moment to ponder and acknowledge that they were right. It was a catalyst for change. I appreciated those people’s honesty and criticism of my behavior. I have slowly learn that someone else’s view of me can be critical to my life in various ways. However, I am not dependent on others’ views but it is insightful.
Frankly, I am not sure if I have the balls to always be cold-call honest. However, when given the right circumstances and when I am in the right mood, I tend to break my silence – very directly (I have a hard time beating around the bush). I can admit that I am not holding up my end of the relationship bargain with silence. I can admit that it is not the best practice. Silence is not always golden. For the people who are important in our lives, we have taken the role of being the other person’s keeper. Being confronted IN LOVE and TRUE CONCERN with difficult questions, harsh truth or criticism, is not meant to be an attack but can be there to provide you with perspective that is different from your own egocentric tunnel vision views. So what if your ego is bruised, you will recover. Sometimes we just need to get a thicker skin with an open mind.