If You Have Nothing Nice To Say, Say Nothing At All ~ Right or Wrong?

Many of us have grown up with the above saying, “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all,” but is this applicable all of the time? One doesn’t wish to be a hypocrite, but when there is silence when a question is asked, then that silence speaks louder than words.

We all come across occasions when we have said the wrong thing, have over stepped the mark, offended without intent, or were unaware of the circumstances when saying something, but that is human. Some may judge you as tactless or consider it bad manners, which is why silence or knowing when to be silent can either be considered safe or perhaps others mistake is as quiet enabling.

Should we be afraid to ask questions if they are reasonable and why are we afraid of the truth and honesty? If so, then where is the art of real conversation going? Then we may ask, what is considered reasonable? Recently, a friend said someone called Anna was staying on their sofa. A reasonable question is to ask who that is, isn’t it? I was met with silence as eventually it was revealed she is a grandchild that was being fostered, and whom my friend didn’t want to discuss. They felt embarrassed because they were afraid I would judge them and I felt bad because I wondered if I had over stepped the boundaries. We did however clear the air, because they knew I didn’t know who Anna was, and I replied I could just pretend I knew or that I didn’t want to know. Which option is better, and what is the point of it?

I had another incident where I was visiting a friend, and her partner invited his best friend and wife along. A reasonable question to ask if how did the couple meet—it’s simple harmless conversation after all. My friend then reprimanded me and said it was wrong of me to ask because they were having marriage difficulties. To be honest, I don’t think I was in the wrong; if one is at a dinner party and is introduced as a couple it’s a very normal safe question to ask. If they were having marriage problems, they should be alone sorting them out and not expecting others in public to tip toe around their issues.

In other cases, should you remain quiet when things are facts? Facts cannot be disputed and are not opinion based, and the truth is some facts aren’t very nice. Should you remain quiet and only discuss nice and good facts, and ignore the bad ones or pretend they don’t exist? When someone asks you what you think about someone, should you lie, or remain quiet if you don’t like them? By remaining quiet or giving a neutral answer such as, “They seem okay,” you are being polite, but not truthful and people know. By sparing their feelings, you are also losing a bit of integrity and step closer to that of being a hypocrite, afraid of the truth.

The current generation doesn’t appear to adhere to this rule of remaining quiet, and often express their views without any regard for the consequences as they feel they have a right to speak their minds. We do theoretically, but should also consider whether it’s an opinion or fact. Opinions and perceptions will always change and vary according to the person, but facts will remain the same, and you can try and distort them, but essentially all you are doing is denying a truth that you prefer not to know.

A good person shouldn’t intentionally say things to harm another, but if telling the truth (no matter how nasty) could help, surely that is better than remaining quiet? An example is if you know someone is being unfaithful, should you say something when asked or not? The problem I see in society today is that people fear the truth and would rather not know things. However, there are tactless people who say things that can offend and harm others and because no one has told them this, they continue. That’s why sometimes it’s good to tell someone so they know what the boundaries are.

I do try to always find something nice or neutral to say, but I’m from the School of Honesty is the Best Policy. It’s a case of how it’s delivered rather than the content though, so I don’t offend most of the time when I tell the truth. The fact is that we can’t always be nice, but should strive to be and because so many people do try and stay silent or give non-answers when they don’t wish to offend, it already tells the other party that they wanted to say something that wasn’t so nice. Therefore, do we humans play a game of pretending and choosing what sounds better versus the truth?

The truth is that honesty isn’t always pleasant, but is that better than a half-baked fib so as not to upset someone? The answer in polite society is to opt for the safe half-baked lie. However, an underlying consequence is that people are then deluded and continue with behaviors that could be questionable. The question is, is that right, to enable these behaviors? While I always advocate honesty wherever possible, it’s only pertinent when that person can accept it or is willing to.

When it comes to discussing those in the public eye, we can ascertain from the facts (from their past behaviors and choices) what we choose to perceive. The fact is they have chosen to be in the public eye through being a celebrity or a politician and therefore should expect to be scrutinized, and accept that not all things said about them will be nice. That doesn’t mean they should be targeted, but if someone is part of a cult and they publicly say and do things that offend others, then people have a right to say what they think about them. Another example is when people are called gold diggers, and their history shows a pattern alluding to that, perhaps they are, but there is no law against it. Certain things can’t be proven, but can be deduced easily, so should people remain silent in this case too? People can state probable and likely facts, even if they aren’t so nice if they have an element of truth.

Basically, if you choose to say nothing at all to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, just because you haven’t said what you think doesn’t alter the fact that you had a negative thought. They probably know it, and if they persist and ask if you are being honest, then what do you do? The dilemma is then to lie to pacify, and so silence isn’t always the easy option if you don’t deliver it convincingly. That’s why I advocate tactful honesty based on facts, and in the worse case, to offer no opinion through ignorance. Realistically, people must learn from hearing a few dark truths, because the world and humanity aren’t perfect, but we should find a balance between honesty and avoiding hurting others feelings whenever possible, but not to tip toe around the truth all of the time.

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Reality versus Perceptions

What is reality and how do our perceptions change? Sometimes it comes with age and experience and other times it’s just plain common sense. Is society so blinkered these days where reality seems so abhorrent and sad that people have to create perceptions to survive?

Who wants reality when they can live in a bubble and pretend that their lives can be like celebrities or reality television stars? Reality shows are staged and scripted by prompts; people don’t really live like that and if it gets boring or people don’t cooperate they ‘leave’ the show.

The problem is the media hypes reality to be something it’s not, and behind closed doors the persona of most people is in fact very normal and boring. Famous models and actresses do walk around without makeup and politicians and actors do take public transport. Reality is not always exciting, but is about survival and being as happy and content as possible. The media tempts and goads us to buy bigger houses, buy expensive clothes, and to eat out at fancy restaurants. If the average person can do, then we all can, can’t we is the message they portray. In society we are perceived as equal, but it’s human nature where you will always find someone who wants to be bigger and better than a sibling, neighbors, or friends. No one will admit it, but it’s true.

Our perceptions change when we yearn for something that we are led to believe we can be or have. We want to believe it’s possible, or some choose to only see what they want to see. Many don’t want to know about the homeless street people (thinking it’s their own fault) or the single parent working two minimum wage jobs, or that the elderly maybe lonely and need help. We are led to believe that these things are taken care of, but in reality they are not. What if it was you?

Reality is seen as depressing and boring, but is honest and is how many people do live or survive in this world. People do struggle to put food on the table and live hand to mouth, racism and sexism still exists despite the laws making it illegal, and people do lie and cheat. Accepting reality and acknowledging it is much better than pretending it doesn’t happen, yet the reality for the minority is that their lives can be out of touch for the masses. Even the celebrity life can be a façade—what is perceived and what is reality are two different things. The sibling of a famous actor told me that they saved their air miles to travel, even though they are a multi-millionaire. I remember well-known comedian traveling on the bus standing next to me, and a model and pop star were told that they had to give up the two tables they were using and to let me have one. That’s reality, what many don’t see.

Society is built up on materialism, and humanity, in helping others and protecting nature comes further down the list. What we perceive makes us happy, but how real is it? Are you brave enough to see reality in humanity for what it really is, or is it easier to create your own perceptions?

Philosophical Ponderings

I remember as a nine-year-old pondering why do we exist? I always had questions, but observed people and knew when to ask and when not to. Instead, I would carry around my books and find a corner to read when the adults around me were too busy. Yes, I had the dolls to play with and cuddly toys, but I was immersed in my stamp collection and books. In those days, it was Ponder and William, Little Miss Pepperpot, the Moomins, The Chronicles of Narnia and the Dragon’s Quest. As a member of the Puffin Club (now sadly defunct) I had my bookplates, which I proudly put in all my books.

“Why am I here?” I would ask myself and “What am I doing?” I was a loner, reading and writing everything down. I could read people, but my innocence was soon shattered when I saw the unpleasant side of people. There was little I could do, and I couldn’t understand why or how people could be so mean. Now, I know it’s human nature, when people feel they need power, they make others look small to make themselves look and feel better. Back then, I was a four-year-old at kindergarten and I learned my lessons early on. Even now as as adult, I am perplexed when I encounter people determined to boost their ego at the expense of others. I don’t let them; sometimes I walk away or I find an appropriate way to confront and address the matter as diplomatically as possible. The truth is some people aren’t interested, they don’t want to listen and without their ego boosted their self-esteem diminishes. It’s their issue and not yours and they have to discover this themselves. Knowing and understanding why people behave as they do can help you deal with situations more effectively.

Throughout life, I look at all sides of an argument or discussion, there are always at least two sides to a story, often more and I learned that what one person sees or hears, another sees and hears something completely different. How can that be when things are so obvious?

An adult once gave me some good advice, “Remember people will not see things as you do or will be able to do things as well as you.” The advice came from a White Witch as she read my palm, as my teenage self smiled and thanked her and I have never forgotten those words.

Is it a gift? Perhaps, the ability and perception to see things from multiple viewpoints and understand them is something I thought everyone was capable of. I realize that it is not the case. Through experience we can help others see things through others eyes, by articulating the differences and explaining the reasoning, thus create harmony and find resolutions. A negotiator or peacemaker? The philosophy is to be fair, just and unprejudiced.

A Philosopher to me is someone who can see the reason behind the logic and reactions—conflicts can be resolved by finding common ground and helping others to understand how the other party thinks and feels. There are different types of Philosophers, all with their own set of beliefs and morals. They expound theories and concepts of how society and humanity ought to be, what should work and what won’t. I’m a realistic Philosopher, I’ve seen human nature at its best and at its worst and I’m sure I will encounter more. Herein is my philosophical expedition…