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| By Wellvyl Media Editorial

I’m going to preface this by saying I’m not a psychologist or someone who has invested hours studying the intricacies of the brain and the spectrum of human emotion. I’m just a regular person sharing how I go about talking with others, what those conversations have taught me about human nature, and how those lessons have shaped me into the person I am today.

I’ve noticed an ongoing debate between two camps. The first argues that raw, unfiltered, and brutal honesty is the most effective way to get a point across, as it leaves no room for misunderstanding or ambiguity. The second camp believes that it’s possible, to be honest without sacrificing tact. If the person is sensitive, and you forgo tact, it’s a surefire way to offend or isolate them. It makes no difference how salient your point is because the other person will be too hurt to take anything you’ve said into consideration.

Is one side more correct than the other? Or might incorporating elements of both be the most effective? Since there are so many variables to consider, I don’t believe a one size fits all approach can work. Looking at myself, there have been moments when I haven’t phrased things in the best way, and I wind up with my foot in my mouth.  I’m not the type to go out of my way to be malicious- that’s not who I am. So why does this happen? It’s possible that I’m reflecting the criticism I received as a child, which, however well intentioned, was eclipsed by the harshness.

One of my biggest struggles was my weight, which made me the brunt of cruel jokes at school. I distinctly remember my father telling me I’d be, “as big as a house,” if I didn’t cut back on the sweets and sodas that were so readily available in the 1990s. I’ve no doubt that he only wanted to encourage me to safeguard my health, but I didn’t respond well.  In fact, this brand of criticism only drove me to consume more ice cream, Spice Girls lollipops, and Dunkaroos. Excess eating helped me cope with insecurity, and I’d wrestle with it for years. It wasn’t until college that I successfully shed the pounds thanks to exercise and portion control.

In his pursuit to make me a better person, my father compared me to my peers. He’d say, “why can’t yo u be like this friend? They did all of this, why can’t you?” And I remember rolling my eyes because it made no sense. We were different people.  They had their skill set and I had mine. I had one best friend growing up, who excelled at math and science. Not only were these subjects not my forte, but the mere sight of numbers or scientific theories also made me nervous. As if the constant pressure to emulate my colleagues wasn’t devastating enough, my father enrolled me in an after school program designed for students who struggled with math. I did pages of equations daily, and my father thought that the more I did, the better I would become.  But I despised those assignments and resented that my social life was hinged on whether or not I did them correctly. To this day, I still hate math.

There’s a domino effect here. I’m critical about my physique and my work, and I often put myself down. It wouldn’t be fair to pin all the blame on my father, as he was the product of a mother who was more like a drill sergeant than a loving, nurturing parent. I never doubted my father’s love or support, but some of his traits echoed hers, especially the impatience and short temper. I think he’s come a long way in understanding how he hurt me, and he’s more mindful of how he speaks to me. Our relationship is even better now because even when we don’t see eye to eye, we aren’t disagreeable.

I don’t expect perfection from myself or others, but I do expect some degree of awareness and accountability. I run things through my mind before giving voice to them, bearing in mind how I would feel if I were the person on the receiving end. As texting and email are flat forms of communication, it’s easy to interpret them as standoffish and cold, even if that wasn’t the intention. To try to avoid this, I cushion my messages with statements like, “please know I’m trying my best to see where you’re coming from,” or “I hope this doesn’t come off as mean.” Emojis can be useful in helping to break up the monotony of word s.

I’m partial to face to face contact whenever possible, and the tone of my voice is crucial, especially if the person is dear to me. If they have done something that has really angered me (which is rare), I might cease communicating for a few days, and clear my mind with exercise. When my anxiety is through the roof and I feel like I’m flailing, meditation helps me find solid ground. I might seek the counsel of another person from a fresh perspective and ideas on how best to address the problem. When I’m ready, I’ll reach out to my friend, and calmly, but firmly, tell them my grievance. Knowing how to govern your emotions is key, no matter how unpleasant the circumstances are.

What happens if the issue you have with somebody is more of a trivial inconvenience than a big deal? How do you handle that friend who spits when they speak, smacks when they eat, or they have hygiene problems? Subjects this person ought to be delicately handled because you don’t want to embarrass them. If there are others around, it might be best to wait.  You might consider opening on a positive note: “you’re great, and I love hanging out with you. But there’s something I wanted to bring to your attention.” Then, you can be completely forthright, while using a measured tone of voice. If your friend is reasonable, they’ll thank you for making them aware, and do something about it. You might want to encourage them to let you know if there is something you can improve. We sometimes miss our own faults.

The labyrinth of life is a complex thing- there’s no practice run or manual for how to weave through those twists and turns. You fall, bruise yourself, and hope that you’ve acquired enough knowledge to prevent falling again. You hurt others, even inadvertently, and that’s just part of the journey. I’m not perfect, but I do strive to live by the old adage: “you will catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”