Monday, 22 February 2016

Speaking Your Mind

The other night, I was watching Come Dine With Me in my Eeyore onesie and contemplating munching on a melt-in-the-middle red velvet cookie (try not to envy my action-packed existence), when a woman on the aforementioned TV show made a comment that hit a nerve.

She'd been deliberately controversial all throughout the episode, making digs at her fellow dining companions, offering huge amounts of criticism with very little praise, and she seemed to have literally no filter between her brain and her mouth.  If she thought something, out it flopped, like a fish from the sea, before thrashing around on the table in front of the horrified guests.

Now, sure, I'm a regular viewer of shows like Come Dine With Me and I'm well aware that on any reality TV show, you're going to get someone in the mix who was almost certainly chosen specifically because of their inability to demonstrate tact, manners or humility.  It's good for ratings, apparently.  But, right at the last moment, as this woman knew that the group of assembled diners were spending their last evening together, she suddenly said: "So, what do you think about the way I've been this week?  Don't you think it's much better to just be completely honest and always speak your mind, regardless of what people think?"

And I couldn't get that question out of my head.  So much so, that I missed finding out who flipping won the show.  I was too busy trying to come up with a coherent response.  I'm not gonna lie, I was close to having some kind of crisis over it.

Like this, only less attractive.

Eventually, I realised that I was coming from an opposite place to this woman on TV.  And I don't just say that because she was from the North and I'm in Cornwall, although they're also opposites, I guess...

No, I say it because I'm the Queen of bottling things up, for fear of offending anyone.  If someone upsets me, there is a very high chance that they'll never find out, because I'll choose to keep my feelings to myself, until my stomach basically eats itself and I've not slept properly for a week.  And even then, I might not be honest about just how upset I've been.  It's not healthy and it really needs to stop.

But, then again, would I want to be someone who just blurts out random criticism, with no thought for who might end up lying awake at night with their stomach eating itself, as a result?  Hell, no.

I guess the best thing is to find the happy medium.  And no, I'm not talking about Derek Acorah (is he happy?  I don't know; to be fair, we've never met).

Recently, I've been trying to make more of an effort to speak my mind.  Something happened a little while ago, which really offended me and I said as much, immediately.  It didn't go down well, to be honest.  In fact, I've dropped an entire week's worth of shopping on the floor and made less of a mess, but I don't regret saying something, because what else would I have done?  That's right - lay in bed, not sleeping, whilst my stomach ate itself.  At least by saying "hang on, that's hurtful," my feelings were made clear and although I still lay in bed awake, my stomach only snacked on itself, which was a marked improvement.

The thing is, I don't believe that we should feel unable to speak our minds when someone else has - either intentionally or unintentionally - caused us pain.  If we don't make our feelings known, then what's to stop that person doing the same thing over and over again, causing us to feel even worse?  You end up trapped on a merry-go-round of angst, in that situation and believe me, it's not fun.  So, whilst the concept is largely alien to me, I'm determined that when I feel hurt or angry about something, I'm going to speak out - albeit politely and probably with copious unnecessary self-apology - so that people know how I feel.

And we shouldn't be worried about being thought of as oversensitive or silly, because even if we are being sensitive, feelings are feelings and if something has caused us emotional distress, we should be allowed to say so.

Pictured: Me.

But that said, I am never, ever going to become the kind of person who just blurts out random, insulting crap and covers it up with the flimsy "I'm just speaking my mind" excuse.  I do think it's important to be honest with people and I don't think we should ever stop people from speaking their mind (free speech and all that malarkey), but I think there's a massive difference between voicing an honest opinion in a tactful manner, and just flinging metaphorical shit at someone's face for the fun of it.

Taking the Come Dine With Me example, there's a huge difference between saying: "I'd have liked my steak a little rarer" and bluntly telling your host: "This is like bloody shoe leather."

One is honest, but tactful.  The other is frankly rude.

I'm not saying that we should wrap everyone we meet up in imaginary bubble wrap like precious little snowflakes, then walk around on tip-toes for fear of upsetting anyone.  That's almost as stupid as keeping everything to yourself and brooding to the point of stomach-eating misery.

But what I believe - and always will believe - is that there's nothing to be gained from being rude for the sake of it, or from never paying the blindest bit of notice to the feelings of others.  You can give criticism constructively and you can voice an opinion without resorting to insults or total tactlessness.

So, going back to the question that woman asked: "Don't you think it's better to just be completely honest and always speak your mind, regardless of what people think?"

Well, yes.  And no.  Basically, find the middle ground, okay?

Right.  So, now that I've answered your question, oh random woman on Come Dine With Me, would you mind letting me know who won?!

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