There are some lines that can be crossed when it comes to friendships and relationships with your significant other. Sometimes in our close relationships we may say see someone make a mistake and want to correct them, but should we? Is it our job to help them see a better way? I would say yes and no, it completely depends on the situation. Learning to know how to pick your battles with a person you love can really make or break a relationship.
I have recently been on both ends of this spectrum. I have pointed out something to a friend that annoyed me and I found rude. I was seeing happen over and over in our friendship and when I finally decided to say something about it the reaction was a defensive one. A couple of months later I was told about something that I had said and done that was wrong in a single moment. In each of these instances I took a long look at the situation and found that there is an art to picking your battles. The time and place of talking to someone about an issue really is key. Usually, right in the moment when the offense is made or shortly after is best, but if you feel a lot of emotion in the immediate moment then it is probably better to wait and think about how you want to approach the subject before doing so.
We all have said things we regret and putting negative out in the world or towards those you love cannot be taken back. I have just recently went through a career change and I had a lot of stress and fear related to making a job change after working at the same job for 15 years. In the process I was told a lot of information that seemed like gossip and in turn I vented about my negative first impression on a night out with my SO and some old friends, and new friends. It was not until about 3 weeks later that I was told my negative words were in really bad taste. So how does one react to being told you handled a situation badly? Of course when someone lays this information on you out of the blue you feel hurt and defensive. I had to ask myself what is the intention here in this moment? Are you really asking me to take a moment to look at myself and work on something that is an ongoing issue?
So here is the real deal, I was confronted about this after a long day at work and then a fun night out with friends. It was late and we both had a few drinks. He was choosing to have this conversation on the way home and three weeks after the incident had occurred. The timing was confusing and frustrating for me and basically put a sour note on what had been a really nice night. In reflection, I realize that most of my defensive reaction came from how the information was being said to me and the timing, not what was being said. I agree that speaking any negativity is wrong and that if we do not have anything nice to say, well, we should not say anything at all. I completely owned my wrong doing and have since come to love my new job and I am building wonderful relationships with those I work with. My worries about what kind of environment I had transitioned in to were valid, but since then, I have reminded myself that every situation is what we make it and there is never an excuse for negativity.
So after the confrontation on the way home I chose to take a look at how I had approached my friend about her negative moment in comparison to how I had been approached. The difference is, I gave my friend a chance to correct it on her own and only after hearing her say it multiple times, in separate conversations, did I finally say something; and I chose to say something right in the moment that it occurred. In comparison, I felt the way I was confronted was extremely bad timing and later I found a bible verse had even been emailed to me about the situation in the same night. My reaction to finding this email a couple of days later was not good either, but I chose to control my emotions and come from a place of understanding. I think in that moment I saw a perfect example of a very self-righteous act. Can we go too far in how we choose to offer advice to another person? Is there a point where it goes from a kind and gentle correction, to a place of judgment and belittling? When giving someone advice about a bad situation it should not be about putting someone in their place and making them feel that place is lower than the one we are advising from. We have to ask ourselves what intention we have and make sure it is coming from a completely loving place.
In my situation I already knew I had done a bad thing by speaking negative. A part of me became defensive in the moment and wanted to explain to him how he had done the very same, but deflection is not the right way to respond to correction. I think in a completely clear moment of conversation, and not on a late night after drinking, I would have reacted completely different. The point can be completely lost if you choose a bad time and place to make the point. Choosing our battles and how to approach them with others is an important part of communication. We are all human and we are all guilty of gossip, negative words about others or a situation, venting our frustrations about how life isn’t fair in different ways. We all need to remember that when we do this it says more about us than those we speak of. I probably did make an ass out of myself that night, I am sure the intent three weeks later was to help me see the err of my ways. I just think choosing the time and place to have a discussion and how you approach the discussion is just as important as which battles you choose. It can help you avoid needless hurt and misunderstandings. Correcting someone and letting them know they have been an ass is pointless if you do it in a manner that makes you come off like an ass yourself.
To practicing more positive, love, and acceptance (and not being an ass),