I can be pretty vocal; especially when I see what I consider an injustice. But what happened to only offering your opinion when someone asks for it? Like my innocent search through pet-oriented message boards for tips on how to help my cat deal with hairballs. I was suddenly inundated by opinions from people who say that “anyone who refuses to feed their pet a raw food diet is being cruel.” I was so tempted to add in my two cents, like how my cat has food allergies and can only digest dry food. How I’ve tried every premium cat food on the market, and it only upset her stomach further. And then I thought to myself: Why should I bother? This is just my opinion and my personal experience. Besides, I promised myself that I would stop being a glutton for punishment and no longer concern myself with people who think that holding an opinion is like holding the Arc of the Covenant. “Avert thine eyes, blasphemer! How dare you disagree with me when I obviously hold the one truth!”
I think most of the time, I’m just too nice. Maybe I have a “delicate disposition” (*faints dramatically*). This unfortunately means that when I do stand up for myself (that is, when I’ve been pushed to the brink of tolerance), people either won’t take me seriously or say that I’m “snappy” or “overly dramatic.”
“Everyone has a right to an opinion,” someone said to me.
“That’s not the problem,” I answered. “The problem is that everyone has an opinion that they think everyone else wants to hear, or that they think is right. If someone doesn’t like the way I speak, dress, act, or the decisions I make, I’m fine with that – you don’t have to like what I do or who I am. But unless I expressly ask for your opinion on how I live my life, then doesn’t basic etiquette dictate that you keep your opinion to yourself?”
*tries to climb up on soapbox…struggles…grabs stepladder, climbs stepladder, then steps onto soapbox*
People should speak out against global injustices. What they shouldn’t do, at least in my opinion (I know you may not have asked for it) is force-feed others their personal morsel of truth because everyone’s tastes are different.
You know what I miss? When people used to say, “Want to know what I think?” And when you answered, “No, not really,” they were totally cool with it. Know what else I miss? Those days when people walked down the street and nodded their head or tipped their hat and said, “How do you do?” And we should totally bring back Fedoras.
But getting back to long-forgotten etiquette:
- How about we bring back the old, “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all?” There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, especially if it’s in relation to a topic that shouldn’t be swept under the rug. But if a comment someone offers does nothing but offend, anger, or embarrass the person on the receiving end, then what’s the point? It may start from good intentions, but it always ends with someone getting hurt.
Here’s what I suggest we do: If someone asks for an opinion on a touchy topic, let’s put ourselves in their shoes and offer advice from that perspective. For example:
“Do you think I should end my relationship with him?”
“If I were in your position, this is what I’d be asking myself: Am I happy? Does the good outweigh the bad? Is the relationship worth fighting for? And if I can’t say yes with conviction to any of these questions, then as much as it would hurt, I’d have to recognize the truth: That it’s time to let the relationship go.”
At the same time, we should also recognize that no matter how many times we hit someone over the head with the truth stick, if they’re not ready to hear it, it will fall on deaf ears. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is allow someone to come into the truth on their own – and 99% of the time, they will.
- How about we stop airing our “dirty laundry” in public, and refrain from starting arguments in front of others? Even if I dislike conflict, I commend people who are willing to face it head-on…just not at the family BBQ, holidays, reunions, or in the middle of dinner.
So here’s what we’ll do: If we’ve got a grievance with someone, we’ll take it outside or discuss it in private. And if this grievance goes back years ago (and is not criminal in nature), then we’ll leave it in the past and forgive and forget.
And while I’m up here on my etiquette soapbox, how about we:
- Open doors for each other, and then say “thank you.”
- Give each other the right of way when driving – and then wave “thank you.”
- Stop making judgments based on a person’s appearance
Alright, I’ll step down now.