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It’s Not WHAT We Say, It’s HOW We Say It

Well ain’t that the truth?


My mother-in-law and I laugh about that all the time. Like when she pokes my father-in-law in the ribs if he’s telling and not asking. Or when I dope slap one of my girls when they hit me with a snarky tone of voice instead of just answering my simple, relevant, and totally harmless question.


It’s the old you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. (A ridiculous saying, but completely true). It’s all about our approach and our tone and our intensity level when we’re communicating with people. Or at least it should be—whether those people are our kids or our parents or the people we work with or our friends. Because when we come out guns blazing, it’s almost always going to make the other person reach for their holster too. And that’s counterproductive.


The perfect example of what I’m talking about is a situation I found myself right in the middle of a few weeks ago at the gym. It was late, like around seven-thirty or eight o’clock at night, so the locker room was quiet. In fact, there was only one woman in there when I walked in to stow my stuff. She was just sitting on a bench, tying her shoes, quietly talking on her cell phone when another woman walked in and opened the locker next to us. 


With little or no hesitation at all, the woman who came in behind me made an extremely rude and obnoxious comment about the other woman being on her cell phone. She went from zero to sixty in a hot minute, barking at the poor woman about being in a public area with signs prohibiting cell phone use and never even gave the woman a chance to respond.


Now even in spite of how rudely the other woman was attacking her, the lady on her phone kept her cool and immediately acknowledged that she hadn’t noticed the sign. She even apologized and said she was about to hang up, but the tirade continued. And that’s where I have a major problem.


See, it was bad enough that this woman came into the locker room loaded for bear, but to be so rude from the get-go and then continue to lambaste someone even after they’ve admitted they made a mistake is so many different kinds of wrong that I didn’t know which one to address first.


Needless to say, I did tell the angry ranter lady that for what it was worth, there was definitely another way she could’ve/should’ve made those comments. She didn’t like me too much after that. 


Look, we’re all guilty of being snippy every once in a while. It happens. We get frustrated when life doesn’t flow like we need it to flow and then we lose it. Perfectly acceptable human behavior, as far as I’m concerned, considering none of us is perfect to begin with. We are, after all, somewhat like radiators in that we need to bleed out a little every once in a while to maintain balance. 


I mean, as much as we all may try, we can’t always be civil and gracious and in complete control 24/7/365. Not when you factor in wildcards like hormones and kids and work stress and the market being out of goji berries. So periodically we slip and we’re short when we shouldn’t be or sharper than we intended to be. But we apologize and we own it and we move on.


To hit someone right between the eyes, though, with the first word out of your mouth, just isn’t ok. There are always other ways to get our point across without being insulting or hurtful or unkind or insensitive. And that’s what I think we often lose sight of. Because when we’re barked at, it hurts. Especially when whatever needed to be said could’ve been said in a more tactful and mature way.


The most obvious example I can think of off the top of my head is when Dave and I are eating out and the beautiful people who take the time to serve and wait on us are belittled and yelled at just because someone’s Brussels sprouts are cold. Drives me insane when someone gets all huffy and intolerant toward someone when all they really need to do is behave with a little respect to get the same point across. 


But that’s because knowing how to communicate effectively is a skill, I guess. No, it’s an art. And not enough people realize how they really sound a lot of the time. Cause they don’t sound good.


So from now on, do me and the rest of the world a favor and think before you speak. Because I can guarantee that there’s always more than one good way to get your point across. And you’ll have far fewer people spitting in your food.

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I’m also the mom of two girls, a wife of almost 25 years to my high-school sweetheart, a nationally syndicated columnist, a runner, an avid paddle boarder, and a whole lot of other things. My true passion, though, is writing. And I love every chance … Read More


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