Ever say something to someone only to regret it later? Did you ever say something to be helpful or honest and realise that sometimes, honesty isn’t always the best policy?
At work and in the home, we all have those moments of regret. Perhaps you lost a potential customer because of it. Maybe you offended your boss and suffered the consequences. Perhaps you sparked an argument with your partner, child or parent when you didn’t mean to.
Carl Rogers, father of person centred therapy, proposed that there were necessary conditions that a therapist should use in order to help their client in the therapeutic setting. He labelled one of these principles: congruence.
In simple terms it can be understood to mean that you should be wholly aware of your internal state, namely your thoughts, feelings and beliefs, in any given moment. However, you do not necessarily have to share that awareness with your client, if not appropriate or helpful to do so.
Taking this principle and applying it to our day-to-day lives, consider the following statements:
- Just because you think something doesn’t mean you have to say it.
- Just because you know something doesn’t mean you have to share it.
- Just because you might feel better in the moment by saying what’s on your mind, doesn’t mean you will later on.
- Just because you want to share something does not mean it is appropriate to do so.
Next time you have an unnecessary argument with someone, let’s say your customer or your spouse, ask yourself if you could have avoided the dispute by being more selective with what you said. Being tactful instead of “just being honest”. Being constructive instead of merely critical. Being thoughtful instead of vengeful.
In this day and age we regularly see people slip up in this way on social media. There are people who lose their jobs because they made a thoughtless statement on Twitter. There are people who tweet things that demonstrate that they are by nature aggressive, attention seeking, negative, narcissistic, and so on.
Do you slip up in this way in real life? Do you sometimes start arguments with your spouse because you shared too much? Do you create disharmony at work because you say what’s on your mind without editing what you say?
When you’ve got something on your mind that is bothering you, ask yourself:
- Is it really necessary for me to share this?
- How would I feel if someone said this to me?
- How can I say what’s on my mind without inviting a backlash?
- Is sharing this information conducive to the success of this relationship?
- How can I resolve our relationship problems without causing undue hurt with my words?