Benjamin Franklin said “remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
Have you learned to “choose your battles wisely?” I think that I am still learning how this works in some aspects of my life, but I can say that I have made significant improvement over the years.
Usually when we talk about “choosing battles wisely,” we think of lessons of parenting. But, of course, this lesson is one that can be applied to any number of situations in our day to day lives.
Choosing battles wisely is a learned skill for most, and we don’t usually master it until we reach a certain level of maturity. It is the level that allows us to hold our tongue at those moments where an idiotic, insensitive, or ignorant comment is made to or around us. Sometimes it is at those moments where others are being idiotic, insensitive, or ignorant to or around us.
Instances like these can really create a stir within us. Believe me, I know. And, in certain ones of these, you do have to challenge some comment, idea, or behavior of another. It is at those times that the “how,” as opposed to the “what,” becomes most important. We must give special attention to how we go about addressing someone with whom we disagree. We must be cautious about how we respond to those with whose perspectives we take particular issue. It is a balancing act, but I think it is one worth the effort. It is easy to run the risk of coming off as combative, aggressive, and/or undisciplined. While we can’t be in the business of managing people’s every perception of us, we can stop and consider the real message that we want to get across. I think that this is important to our everyday relating with others.
Oftentimes, what we hope to communicate is lost by the way that it is communicated. Being concerned with being right with no regard for manner can cause a “right” message to fall on deaf ears and to bounce off impenetrable hearts and minds. The same is true of ill-timed messages. An appropriately timed message, communicated in a respectful way can be better received and carries far more merit than an ill-timed, careless one.
We all are thinking and feeling human beings with valid takes on the world uniquely shaped by our individual experiences. This is precisely why we will have varying positions on issues and make sense of one thing in a completely different way than someone else. We emerge from different backgrounds that inform our ways of knowing and being. When we can consider that it is our differences that provide us with a particular vantage point and that from where we stand our perspective make sense, we are more likely to reconsider how we communicate disagreement.
Choosing your battles wisely is not about becoming a mindless observer of all that we see and hear. Instead, it is about becoming a more mindful participant in a world of differences and learning to communicate your position in a way that adds to and not diminish your real message.
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.