Friday, January 1, 2010

Survival of the Tactful

After traveling back and forth between family and relatives I am happy to report that I have survived (barely) and am back for my first blog post of the year. I had a few particularly unnerving events happen during some of those visits so I decided to do some evaluating. I ‘m not talking about New Year’s resolutions (I never make any because I never keep any) I’m talking about reviewing, analyzing, scrutinizing-heck, any scientific term would apply here-how I relate to those around me, and should I change.

I have two problems that probably stem from a pretty unhappy childhood. Yes, I know that everyone who has problems turns around and blames their upbringing, so I will say that mine started then, but to this day I still can’t get a handle on them. My problems are an endless need to be right (more so with family-it's a sister thing), and a lack of tact-you know, that part of the brain that stops your mouth from saying everything that pops into your head? Well, I was born without that part, and let’s just say that this has caused more than a few problems over the years, especially with my family.

I used to think I was just being direct, telling it like it is without all the sugary coating, and I often say that I prefer this approach in others. When everyone else tiptoed around a subject, I often stated what I thought everyone else was dying to say, using “the truth will set you free” as my mantra. I would often use the excuse of being the outsider looking in and how those directly involved in a situation just don’t see how it affects everyone else around them, and to some extent that is true. But there is a fine line between being direct and being unkind and I actually learned this lesson from witnessing the behavior in one of my relatives.

Now in my defense, I had been battling a stomach virus during most of our stay with relatives, so peace at all cost because it’s the holidays wasn’t something I could muster in my current state-I was tired of watching people eat food I couldn’t eat, and I just wanted to go home to sleep in my own bed, but that was still a four hour drive away. So, I sat and listened, giving my opinion freely even though it was never sought, while my husband coughed every time he thought I was about to cross the line.

I had almost made it through the evening when a younger member of my family arrived at my parents’ house. The change in this person’s behavior was obvious, and I was immediately taken aback by how freely this person gave an opinion, an opinion that was never sought. Now other family members had warned me about this person’s attitude change, but I hadn’t believed it until now. This person hurt not only my daughter’s feelings, but she also talked about my sister when she was out of earshot, and disrespected me all in the course of an hour. I waited for an admonition that never came, so the defender of truth and right, little old me, opened my mouth and let her rip.

I said this person had become mean and that I had listened to the nasty comments coming out of their mouth since they walked through the door, but I would do so no more. I wanted some assurances that this type of talk would end, and I waited for a confirmation before I stopped. Now granted, I do not feel bad for putting a stop to rude behavior in a very young adult, but what I do regret is the lack of tact I used after my speech, and I spoke in front of this person’s mother, another sister of mine. I think I said something to the affect that if this person acted appropriately then maybe this person would be allowed to talk this evening-not good, and to say that my sister took it badly is a grave understatement. She had more than a few choice things to say about me, and I had at least some sense just to let her rattle on. Let’s just say that the end result was her hasty departure and thank goodness it was late because I now had an excuse to leave as well.

I am not sure how this will play out in the end, but I can’t help but notice the similarities between this person and myself. How can I preach about respect and discretion when I have failed to show it myself? Now granted I have never in my lifetime talked to aunts, uncles, or other relatives as this young person did, and in all my years of teaching I have never had anyone talk to me in this manner, and it is inexcusable. There is also a distinct difference between mean commenting and giving an opinion. However, this person has adopted a decidedly superior air that I must confess I have used when hammering home my point of view with my sisters. Maybe I need to heed my own advice.


  1. I was always known for saying it like it is - now when I go to a family function, I cut out as early as possible, and keep my comments neutral.

    I think I would have done the same if one of my nieces or nephews was being disrespectful. One thing I won't tolerate is disrespect -from young or old. Maybe everyone will think the episode through, and get something useful out of it.

    Happy New Year!

  2. Interesting revelation. Recognizing it is half the battle. Best of luck making it better. I am sure that you will be able to do so.

  3. You should have seen me "debating" with my nasty brother-in-law over the holidays. I couldn't take his comments anymore. I usually hold my tongue but I found his comments about me and my kids to be offensive on many levels. Needless to say, I left the house in tears (hormonal on that day) and my husband's family (as usual) took the superior position. They never think that they are wrong.

    Holidays and family can be a volatile mixture. I also wonder if I pushed the argument too far. It's tough once hurt feelings are involved. I think that you were right to speak up against those nasty comments. She should not be allowed to get away with it. I'm not sure what the answer is when the family "pot" begins to boil at gatherings. I'm always glad to go back home and eat my chocolate :)

    Happy New Year Susan!

  4. Perhaps seeing how it played out the way it did will help you to deal with it better in the future. I'm guessing that maybe the problem lies in the delivery, not the information itself.

    But, I'll bet it sure felt good to get back to your own home that night! :)

    Happy New Year!!!

  5. Someone left a very sweet comment about seeing things from all sides and I accidentally deleted it. (I started doing comment acceptance on the blog because I worry about student comments-plus working from a smart phone-not too smart!)

  6. It always seems that the behavior we can't stand in someone else is actually something we don't like about ourselves. Happens to me all the time!! Don't be too hard on yourself. I think you are being quite great about it because you are able and willing to see an area you might need to work on. Happy New Year! Love you blog!

  7. I wish I was more outspoken, I'm the type that keeps it all in for the sake of peace, and get all worked up inside and angry and never release it. I think it's good to address things when disrepect is shown, and I agree that it sounds like the younger person needs to learn manners. I guess it's a lesson all around.

    I hope you're feeling better! Happy New Year!

  8. Wow...sorry that 2010 has started off a little rocky. I am the type that speaks my mind. I am so jealous of my best friend. Everyone loves her and she is nice to everyone. Screw her:) Just kidding...
    I agree with above... the little one needs to know that's not okay.

  9. So was your husband coughing up a lung trying to get you to stop?!

  10. Let's just say that after a while you could hear him saying my name through his coughs! LOL!

  11. Sounds like a tough situation. I hope it all works out for you. It is always interesting when the shoe is on the other foot - quite an eye opener sometimes. I'm not an outspoken person at all, in fact I'm completely the opposite and that in itself has gotten me in trouble a time or too as well. We all can't be perfect, but it never hurts to keep trying.

  12. I often have to watch the way I say things as well. I try to be honest but realize I may have to change the way I want to say something. Maybe it was called for that you said something. And at least you recognize you are not perfect. The person who made rude remarks would probably never fault themselves.

  13. Don't be too hard on yourself. At least you recognize you're not perfect. The other person probably didn't ever think about the fact that they might be worng. (I tried to comment before but I'm not sure if it went through.)

  14. Sounds like a ruogh thing. The holidays can be brutal sometimes.

    I am hoping you are feeling lots better

  15. Wow...interesting post. What a tough realization. I hope everything turns out ok with your sister and maybe the young adult is also thinking about the things that were said. Maybe the new year will bring a change for both of you? :)

    I always wished I could be more direct. I'm overly fond of the sugar coating...and whipped cream and the giant cherry on top.


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