Dr Stewart Hase - Psychologically Speaking

Sometimes its best to be told

My mum, probably like millions of other mums, had lots of little sayings to suit almost every occasion. Theyd come out of the blue when Id been naughty or said something rash. They were a gentle form of admonishment of course, even though at the time it seemed as if she was talking vaguely to the ceiling or the kitchen window. Id wander off, wondering what she meant. A lot of these little aphorisms were about being nice to people. She was right of course and I often hear her soft voice when I stray and am less than generous to people.

Telling people unpleasant truths is a tricky business. And sometimes it isnt possible to find an oblique saying or story to get the message across in a gentle and non-confronting way. Its tricky because you cant guarantee that the receiver is going to be all that thankful for the message you are giving. I have been struck off quite a few Christmas card lists for speaking my mind. But some of my best learning has come from friends being honest with me if I can find a way around my ego and take the message on board. It can be quite life changing, especially if the learning stops you annoying or affecting a whole lot of other people who arent prepared to tell you. Its one (of many) of the things I like about my children they dont mind telling me when I have a pimple on the end of my nose.

Anyhow, my thinking about this was brought about by two events over the weekend. One of these was at a conference on Sunday where I met up with a number of old friends. Over a couple of glasses of wine at the conference dinner a colleague and I reminisced about a time, many years ago, when she had confronted me while I was giving a paper about a major error in my work. I was devastated at the time and I havent given a workshop or paper at that annual conference since then (I hope she doesnt have to do it again this afternoon). But, she was dead right of course, and the learning was huge for me and made a massive difference to my work, which mostly affects people and was, therefore, important. As my daughter tells me, Build a bridge and get over it. So I did, but not without some suffering. But perhaps that is how we really learn things in life.

The other event was a sporting grand final. At the medal presentations after the game, the captain of the losing team could not bring herself to even mention the winning team in her speech; no congratulations, nothing, and it was quite obviously deliberate and an extension of her churlish behaviour during the game itself. Setting the tone, she and the rest of the team completely ignored the winners as they received their medals. One member of the losing team clapped every winner standing alone to one side and I applaud her loudly for sportsmanship and not following the leader (a lesson in itself). When the woman of the match was announced the captain led her team off the field during the presentation. This dreadful behaviour was seen by all.

I hope someone can find the strength to tell her how ugly it all was, that she receives the wisdom and she can somehow feel better about herself. Life is just too short and too precious to waste one drop.

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