In my life I’ve thought of many ways to be a hero. Doctors, Politicians, Firefighters, Paramedics, Teachers. In the past I wanted to be one. I’ve had such aspirations as to become the first female president of the United States (then I realized what a crappy job that is and that only someone clinically insane would want it), I wanted a PhD until I realized that I didn’t know what I wanted it in (besides that, no one thinks someone with a PhD is a hero unless they are a heart surgeon). When I was young I wanted to be a firefighter until I realized they didn’t have college degrees and that the profession is far too dangerous for anyone who is as attached to life as I am. I wanted to be a teacher and but I wanted my bachelors degree to be in English so I got a degree in that instead and was so sick of school by the time that was over that I gave it up altogether. Military, definitely not for me. Parent, uh, I do okay at that and my children definitely consider me one of their favorite super heroes, but that’s a tough job and you don’t get to wear capes except on halloween.
In this life, there is one thing I’ve learned about being a hero. All too often in life, the right response is no response.
There’s the professional silent treatment which comes from knowing when not to talk. I am only now learning this skill and I’m learning it through watching people in the organization and noticing there are a lot of mouths in my company that don’t move too much. If you are at work and you have something to say that your boss isn’t going to like: KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT until you can figure out a way to say it in a way that he or she will be more receptive to. Your boss does not want to hear what you think about the job they are doing unless it is to tell them “You’re doing a great job, keep it up.” Not that they aren’t doing a good job but perhaps there is something that you don’t like about the way they do their job. Ah-ah, DON’T SAY IT. When you talk to your boss, or any other authority figure, keep it simple, brief and positive. There is always something positive that you can say. If you stick to this path, watch how quickly you will advance in your organization.
The old adage does ring true, “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Sometimes words are unnecessary. Sometimes they only complicate matters. When you are in an arguement with a loved one and you say something that will hurt, you can’t take that back. Aside from my mother, most people don’t forgive and forget (although, her forgiving and forgetting is selective at best). Words are powerful, people take them seriously. They evoke emotions that stay with you longer than the words do. If you are going to say something hurtful to someone you love, take pause. Think about it. How would you feel if those words were uttered to you? Friend, lover, child, think about how what you say will impact the situation. We’ve all got a choice. Sometimes that mean angry thing that we only want to say because we are angry needs to go back to sleep for awhile. Don’t say it. Wait. It will probably go away. If it is something that you still feel later then you should probably revisit the situation to understand what is bothering you and talk about it after you’ve kept your mouth shut for a while.
Then there is the girlfriend/family member who is talking about her boyfriend/husband/significant other scenario. That’s always fun. Our friends don’t really want us to tell them that we’ve hated Johnny ever since he threw up on our divan last Halloween. If you tell them what you really think you risk losing the friendship or making them pissed at you. This is not something I relish but this lesson is easily learned. Partly because you have told your friends your opinions on such matters so very many times and it still does not change their behavior and partly because when they don’t care for what you are saying they will let you know. This is a good area to begin practicing the silent treatment.
I do want to clarify that I am in no way advocating that we never speak about how we feel or what we think. I am simply advocating diplomacy – through silence – in your interpersonal relationships. I advocate silence only until you can manage to put your thoughts together and share them in a way that causes as little pain to those around you as possible. That’s difficult. That’s heroic.
So, at my age I’ve again revised my criteria for heroism to add in another type of hero. The good ole silent type. That is the best lesson that my husband ever taught me.