I’m Just Being Honest: Tempering Your Words

“I don’t see why I have to choose my words Amy. I should be able to say whatever I want. My family and friends want me to be honest, don’t they?” Ward was asked to come to counseling because those around him complained that his words can be cutting. Later as I was chopping vegetables for dinner, I started thinking about other situations people shared with me over the years that were particularly painful.

Joe was sitting at his family’s kitchen table, staring out the window. That morning his older brother, who was out in the local park with their dog, had been shot by a well-known gang member in the neighborhood. An aunt pulled him from his thoughts. “Joe, could you make me a cup of coffee?” Joe was confused, “I’m sorry, what?” he asked. “You look like you’re bored Joe, and there’s lots to do around here with your brother dead. The least you could do is get me some coffee.”

Yolanda’s friend was describing the agony of a recent miscarriage. “You have no idea what I’m going through,” she angrily commented. “I mean, you have two kids. How could you understand?” Before the birth of her two beautiful girls, Yolanda survived four miscarriages which resulted in a deep depression.

Sarabeth’s husband had been sick for months, fighting cancer. They were both on leave from their jobs, crisscrossing the country trying a variety of experimental procedures, some of which were showing promising results. A friend of Sarabeth’s called to check on her. After listening to Sarabeth for a few minutes, the friend asked if Sarabeth had access to her husband’s email. “You know, you’ll need all his contacts to make sure they know about the funeral.”

“My teenage daughter was acting like a bitch, so I told her so. I mean, bitch simply means a female dog.”

In general honesty is a positive character trait (one that rural folks highly value), and relationships where we can speak are mind are critical for good mental health. But even if we are “right” (Sarabeth will need access to her husband’s contacts), it is important to think about word choice and timing. Good communication skills are less about political correctness and more about common sense and kindness. Where do your communication skills need some pruning?