When we teach girls that they should always be nice, and if they can’t manage that, to be silent, it prevents them from expressing their emotions. Instead, shouldn’t we teach our children, boys and girls, that honesty is the best approach to every situation, and that in being honest, we should always consider how we approach difficult conversations.
If we can’t think of something nice to say there are two possibilities, either we are just being mean, or perhaps we need to say something that we know will be difficult for others to hear. In both instances staying silent is the worst option. In silence, we sterilize our thoughts and kill off part of the most fundamental part of ourselves. We fail to express what we really think and in doing so, kill the relationships we should be cultivating, relationships that should be thriving with all kinds of complexities. We don’t grow and become more full and happy people by censoring our ideas before they have been uttered.
In the former instance they simply grow and become more toxic as we fixate both on the fact that someone is fat, or stupid, or a bitch. We also fixate on the fact that we are not being ‘nice’ and that we are a bad person for thinking this way. Surely a better response than saying ‘she is such a fat cow’ would be to try to find something positive to say. It’s not always easy to be nice to, or about people we don’t like, but it is always the best response. We might even find that the person isn’t as bad as we first thought, they just needed someone to say something positive. Perhaps it's the only positive thing they will hear that day.
In the latter case, if there is something difficult that needs to be said, we need to say it. Not saying it only builds resentment and annoyance. The other person may be oblivious to our anguish and it is not fair on anyone to be dishonest with our feelings. When you find that you are really annoyed at your mum/brother/best friend that they borrowed our favourite shoes/made plans without you/didn’t ask your opinion, you need to effectively communicate how you feel and listen to their response. Sometimes it’s all a misunderstanding, sometimes that person will apologise, if they get angry and yell at you they are the one with bad communication. It’s very easy to feel anxious about confrontation though and honesty requires bravery. It is not always the easy option, but in the long term it is the best option. That’s what I want my daughter to learn, so I offer a new adage for all young girls, and boys, to live by…If you can’t think of something nice to say, be honest anyway. The real lesson we need to learn is how to be honest and kind at the same time.