If you don’t have anything nice to say

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

June 20, 2010


Categories: Family

The Castle Gardens… don’t say anything at all. My mother always told us to never say anything behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say in front of their face. This was in conjunction with, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Conflict happens all the time in our society. I think it’s pointless to question why, because the why is simply that we are all different. We are as different as snowflakes, and there are no two alike.

So, we have conflict, some days more regularly than others. But, what should we do about it? I believe that as a society, we are constantly evolving. Evolution suggests some sort of improvement over time. So, I believe, as a society that we are constantly on a path towards improvement. Sometimes that improvement is stymied, halted, by our own actions. War, perhaps, being the most dramatic example of societal stagnation and regression (no matter that war technologies constantly improve).

Diagram of mutation and selection in evolution.

Image via Wikipedia

War, for many of us, is far removed from our daily lives regardless of what the papers say or tell us. Our everyday lives, especially in Western Cultures, are largely made up of daily familial, friendly, and business/school relations. Our lives, for the most part, are fairly tame. Yes, tragedy interferes in our lives. Any viewing of the 6 o’clock news shows the terror and horror we can inflict upon each other. But, those extremes aren’t what I’m talking about here. Here, I’m talking about those mundane daily interactions when we simply have to solve the modus operandi of those routines. I’m talking about when we disagree on the basic paths to take and how we react to those (dis)agreements. Yes, these interactions serve as a baseline towards the larger, more dramatic interactions that I’ve sometimes talked about in  other posts.

You are in a group. You are trying to decide the best method, the best course of action, when working with other groups. Your group is similar to others, and while you don’t necessarily compete, there is a base level of competition since you offer similar services. You work with sellers of similar products. Some of these sellers have asked you to keep their pricing confidential. These other groups have helped you prior to your group stabilizing. They built you up. And, now, you are in a conundrum where you have to keep things from these groups or work out some sort of agreement. You and your group decides to ask people to sign confidentiality statements. Then, something is misunderstood and one of the other groups leader’s is offended beyond any repair. What do you do? The contact, thus far, has been with phone messages and emails – no actual conversations where there can be in instant exchange of ideas. What do you do?

I try to keep my head. Offer a hand, like the simple statement, “When you’re ready, let’s talk.” When disagreements happen, I find it’s best not done over technical means (facebook, email, twitter, even phones and phone messages). You need the real contact. You need to be able to see eyebrows raising, stand-off-ish poses, crossed arms, icy glares. You need to have the intuition to feel out the situation because there are some places hard science cannot reach. You need to be able to have the ability to use some finesse and grace. So, what happens then when the other says something like, “I thought we were friends,” and refuses further contact?

I think it’s quite unfortunate. The growing process has been halted, frozen, by an unwillingness to grow. So, others simply have to grow around the stagnate stump of a tree. It is a sad, unfortunate situation, when you cannot credit the giants who’ve given you the tools to grow when they stop wanting to grow themselves. Maybe that’s where evolution really comes in – the ability to learn and grow around the parts that cease to grow.

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