Tuesday, April 7, 2009
What in the Hell Are You Thinking?!
Really... I mean, really... come one... you're joking... you're kidding me, right? Surely to all goodness, you are not going back to that worthless loser? You are NOT going to move your entire family into your mother's house! You're getting married... again?! To an alcoholic?! WHY are you having a baby with someone you just wanted to divorce last month!!!
These are situations I face every day, not just as a professional in the field of counseling, but as a professional human. We all have friends, family, or acquaintances that make us ask-- "What the hell are you thinking?!" To speak the truth or to not speak the truth, this is the dilemma. This is a dicey and tricky dilemma and one I delve into with great consideration.
First of all, I think you have to consider the nature of your relationship with the person in question. If this is a co-worker or a not-so-close acquaintance, you should probably keep your mouth shut. Most people are really not all that interested in honest feedback, even those people who go to a therapist and pay money for honest feedback. It is really hard to hear the truth about ourselves sometimes. It is painful and we want to avoid pain and discomfort. Even if this co-worker or not-so-close acquaintance asks you for your opinion, if the situation involves any of the delicate matters referenced in the first paragraph-- really, don't give your opinion. I have found that a response like this works well, "Wow, you are really dealing with a tough situation here. It looks like you're just doing the best that you can right now. I really hope this works out for you." This is an honest statement and keeps you out of it.
If the person in question is a very close friend or dear family member, then there may be reason to share honest feedback. If your closest friends cannot tell you the truth, then who else do you have? Before divulging rigorous truth to even a close friend, ask yourself these questions: Will my honest feedback actually help my friend/family member in this situation? Are other people telling them this same information? If so, how are they receiving it thus far? How can I give this feedback AND insure my friend/family member I love and care for them? Could the consequences of my NOT sharing my opinion create harm to myself or other people? Will my NOT sharing my opinion hinder my relationship with this person or affect the way I feel about myself?
Since we are talking opinions here, it is MY opinion that we should only be completely and bluntly honest with others when we feel the information is vital to the person's health/well-being, the person is at least somewhat likely to receive it, and/or we cannot maintain our own integrity if we say nothing. There have been times when I have been confronted or given honest feedback and initially did not receive it very well. After a few days or weeks of allowing the information to sink in, I began to realize the truth in it and own it as my own truth. I was later able to thank the person for having the courage to be so honest with me.
So, when are the times to just remain silent? Perhaps you have already shared your honest opinion multiple times and it is not being heard. Perhaps others have also confronted or asked the person in question, "What the hell are you thinking?!" If this person continues on their own path toward destruction despite the repeated warnings and offered assistance from others, you just have to let go. You have the right to limit your relationship with the person (if the friend/family member's behavior is affecting you). There are also those people who are strong-willed and just need to experience mistakes... again and again... before they finally get it. Those are tough people to love, especially if they are your children, for example! Sometimes we remain silent because we love the other person enough to let them have their own mistakes. We care enough to let them walk through their own process of change and see the mistakes for themselves. This is so hard to do.
So, the next time you have one of these "What the hell are you thinking?!" kind of moments, pause before posing this question. It's a loaded one and can bring with it big consequences.
Above picture found at: