Just say it

I meant what I said, and I said what I meant.

-Dr Seuss as Horton the Elephant (in Horton Hatches the Egg)

I really hate it when people ‘beat around the bush’ instead of saying something straight out. I know there are multiple reasons for doing this: you don’t want to commit, you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, you’re not 100% sure etc. – but on the whole I firmly believe that getting things out in the open, upfront, is the way to go.

Obviously, you need to be careful about how you say things (and often I’m not … something to work on) – the need to be aware of your ‘political correctness’ is always going to be there, particularly in writing as you can’t really ‘unwrite’ something.

Giving people compliments, or positive feedback on their work, is the thing that springs to mind when I read the above quote from Dr Seuss.

If I had a dollar for every time I have said to a colleague or a student, ‘I don’t say things I don’t mean,’ after complimenting them, or praising them on their work – then I would no longer have to work for a living.

I do not tell someone their hair looks nice, or I loved their story, or they have blown me away with their speech, or I loved their art lesson … or whatever … unless I actually mean it.

I meant what I said, and I said what I meant.

However, as I mentioned before, sometimes saying exactly what you mean can get you into hot water. It’s along the lines of what my father used to say, ‘If you can’t come up with something nice to say, then don’t.’

I remember telling a preservice teacher once, ‘It is what you don’t write on a feedback sheet or report that is the real comment.’

Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give constructive criticism or feedback. If you only write nice things on a report, some people don’t read between the lines and think everything is hunky-dory.

It’s all a bit of a word game. How to say what you mean, in a nice way, so the recipient doesn’t get offended or hurt, but still understands that they need to improve?

There are times I do not enjoy aspects of my job. As teachers we continually have to assess what we say, so we don’t offend, but still remain honest about a student’s achievements.

Away from school, I also always try to abide by the words of Horton the Elephant. I try really hard not to always blurt out exactly what I think. I do have a few social graces and am always telling my children, ‘Think it, don’t necessarily say it.’

So, if I haven’t said anything about your clothing, hair, makeup, housecleaning skills, facebook post, etc. there will be one of two reasons for this:

  1. I haven’t noticed it.  This happens a lot with a friend at school who likes to get her eyelashes done. I do not notice this sort of thing (because I tend not to make eye contact a lot). Once, she fluttered her eyelashes at me to get me to notice. My comment – ‘Have you got something in your eye?’
  2. I cannot think of anything nice to say.  I’m really sorry, but I don’t wish to offend you, so I am taking my Dad’s advice and shutting up. I am, however, happy to report that this occasion is rare as I can usually come up with a way to say what I mean without being too rude.

In a nutshell though, don’t beat around the bush. If you don’t like something I’ve done or said (or written!), I would like to know about it. Similarly, it would be great to know if you like something I have done, said or written.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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