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author's profile photo Colleen Hebbert

[Discussion] Dinner at the in-laws: If you don't have anything nice to say.....

Hi All beverage drinkers and time wasters (reminds me... we need a cross through text button :( )

Don't worry, I have awesome in-laws. For those regulars on my FB page you see how spoiled my dog is, my husband and I are (my in-laws cook awesome roast dinners and drop them over; take me clothes shopping; and good wine & whiskey is never in short supply)....

Anyway back on topic

Within our community and generally in life we always seen the old adage in practise that if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything of all. It manifests itself in the lack of likes and interaction through comments. Silence is then misinterpreted as acceptance or validation. On a different coffee corner discussion, it came up about some the limitations of how we can share negative feedback.

So with that in mind, my mother-in-law made a comment (can't remember how we even got to such a discussion and the context but really that's irrelevant): if you don't have anything nice to say..... (my mind already finishing the statement with don't say anything at all)... don't be mean.

And that's the key difference here. It was a great lesson for me. We don't (and really shouldn't) need become passive to show displeasure or disagreement. Instead, it's okay to be constructive and to disagree.

But then it comes down to another lesson I live by: argue the point and not the person.

And I hope as a eclectic community that we can all see that it's okay to have a different points of view or to find flaws in arguments to speak out but more importantly, for those who put themselves out there and contribute to see the value of constructive feedback have be willing take it on chin and improve.

/random reflections of a dinner conversation



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  • Nov 03, 2016 at 03:53 AM

    Since we are sharing stories here... Back in 2000 when I came to the US I did not speak English well and made many mistakes. (I still do but anyway.) Most Americans I talked to obviously subscribed to the same theory, so they just smiled politely and spoke to me as if I was mentally challenged. Then at a party I met a random lady who just casually started correcting my mistakes as we talked. She was not at all "in your face" about it, it seemed as if she was just doing this automatically. Till this day I'm very grateful to her. I learned more from a short conversation with her than from months of talking to people who were "nice" and didn't say anything about my mistakes.

    • Nov 03, 2016 at 06:01 AM

      I think that's the key thing here - motivation of the person. It's not out of malice or for them to feel better/more superior but sincerity. It's a genuine desire to help. Sometimes it is hard to give feedback as you know it might be taken the wrong one or the person have their feelings hurt but then to remain silent could be worse.

      Imagine the kid in school who was never taught about deodorant - if only one person had the courage to be critical but not mean it could have saved them a world of pain and ridicule (figure we're in Coffee Corner so these examples are valid).

    • Nov 03, 2016 at 07:04 PM

      Jelena, I sometimes struggle with whether or not to correct my wife's English when she makes grammatical mistakes in conversation (she's French). It doesn't always go well when I do! So, um, yeah... ;)

      • Nov 03, 2016 at 08:49 PM

        My husband sometimes dares to complain about my cooking. When I note that he should be grateful I even cook anything after a day at work he replies: "But what if I really don't like it and I don't say anything and then you will make it again?". Hate to admit but he has a point there. :)

        • Nov 05, 2016 at 02:51 PM

          When I read about the cooking, I cannot help and I started to picture you half way between this russian woman and this one from Orange is the New Black.

          No insult or anything else!

          Just I got the flash of those two reading about the cooking. :)

          • Nov 07, 2016 at 01:24 AM

            Yes, the only thing (other than criminal conviction) that separates me from Red is the hair color. :)

  • Nov 03, 2016 at 02:31 PM

    Uhm... stay silent... never worked for me.

    I prefer a more direct approach, fighting and arguing even real hard but put clear and net my thoughts and then go out for a beer all togethers.

    Even if I like to write, when it comes up to discuss/talk/argue via forum, my (few) skills fly away and I tend to become a caveman :\

    • Nov 03, 2016 at 04:31 PM

      Simone, I imagine it's quite normal in Italy. :)

      • Nov 04, 2016 at 08:11 AM

        LoL! What an image of my country i'm giving!

        I do not think so, really.

        I think it's something about my region/county (Bergamo) more than a generic "Italy" :p

  • Nov 03, 2016 at 06:13 PM

    The main problem in a community of 'nice' people is that when honest constructive feedback is rare, you are inclined to dismiss it (everybody is so pleased with you, this other guy - he must be a jerk).

  • Nov 05, 2016 at 12:23 AM

    If you don't have anything nice to say...

    Make your point politely, diplomatically, but bluntly and clearly. Don't be rude, but state your point so that it will be understood.

    Being mean just means it will be rejected (even as much fun as it might seem at the time, it's not worth it!)

    Cheers, Mike

  • Nov 07, 2016 at 03:24 PM

    This reminds me of the current way to teach children how to write in schools here in Germany (I heard it from mothers, so...).

    It seems that if the kids write words wrong in elementary school, they are not corrected, because this could lead to the children not want to write anything at all. I can just shake my head at this nonsense, because who would not see that it's a lot harder to get rid of these mistakes later on, when you are required to write the words correctly? "They are supposed write them how they say them..." So you need to learn them twice? How is that helpful?!

    I think it falls into the same category. It's not mean to correct them, it helps them. Really glad I'm not in school these days...

    • Nov 07, 2016 at 05:19 PM

      Now you made me feel gratitude towards my mother for telling me when I was 6, that I have no excuse for spelling mistakes. Оf course, first she explained the logic behind some rules, which I did not know about.

      When criticizing, 'not mean' is not always good enough. I believe, it was important (I was very touchy at that age), but what urged me to improve my writing skills, was that she was not condescending - she just explained the concepts like she did to her students, asked me if I understood the explanation, gave me hints for a few more books, which I can read and left me on my own (assuming that I am old enough to handle things from there).

      Needless to say, the next year, when I was 1st grade, I had a lot more leisure time than others, part of which I spent writing stories about pirates and Indians. :)

      • Nov 07, 2016 at 06:19 PM

        You're welcome! ;)

        I think becoming an avid reader at a young age helps a lot.

        We went to the town library as a school excursion, when I was in first grade and I took the registration home and got my parents to sign it. Was pretty much part of the inventory of the library in no time. ^^

    • Nov 07, 2016 at 10:33 PM

      Oh dear, I thought we only had this nonsense in the US. :( In the previous grade, the kid's teacher corrected pretty much everything - punctuation, capitalization, etc. Now only major spelling errors are corrected, as if the rest is optional. Good thing this little snowflake has a mean mommy at home.

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