No matter how crazy and chaotic our country seems right now, we still enjoy amazing freedoms that we take for granted everyday.
A cornerstone of our personal freedom is the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition. Of course, the protection of speech is not absolute. There are specific restrictions including time, place, and manner.
Normally, I try to highlight the “do’s” but today I am focusing on the “Don’ts.”
If your friend had a miscarriage 3 weeks ago, now is not a good time to tell her about the fight you had over picking a paint color for your nursery. That’s pretty insensitive.
Don’t say something like “my period is 2 weeks late,” or “My boss said he might need me to be in Dubai for 2 years,” as you are walking out the door. Therapists call this strategy door-knobbing. That kind of timing communicates, “I don’t feel like dealing with your reaction to this news.” Uncool.
Caution: There is no right time to give unsolicited advice.
Please don’t share the details of a private conversation with other people–especially at a party within earshot of several people. That’s a special kind of speech called gossip. Even if you don’t have any malicious intent in sharing, the information about your friend is not yours to give. Also, your friend probably expected that she what she told you was in confidence. Now you’ve just created trust issues in your friendship.
Don’t blow kisses and say, “Goodbye! I love you!” when your drop your kid off at middle school. I realize that this is the exact behavior that your child required for several years. Nevertheless, it is now “totally embarrassing” and unprotected speech.
Manner: Sometimes, the manner in which you express yourself speaks louder than the actual words you say.
Contempt is a manner of speech that is never acceptable in relationships. “What’s wrong with you?” is a classic example of contempt. Contempt is also expressed non-verbally: eye-rolling, sneering, and imitating the person. Contempt conveys disgust, superiority and blame.
It is virtually impossible to resolve conflict where there is contempt. Rather, it causes more conflict.
Caution: “I’m just being honest” and “It’s the truth”
are not defenses for contemptuous communication.
No commentary about modern freedom of speech would be complete with out touching on how we express ourselves in social media.
If your social media persona is completely our of alignment with who you really are, the people who know you in person might have a hard time connecting with you.
Authenticity is a prerequisite for connection.
Caution: Being authentic is not the same as oversharing. You still need a filter.
In most of these examples, there is no intent to harm. Nevertheless, the quality of our relationships depends on how we express ourselves. In fact, poor communication is one of the primary reasons that my clients seek help.
We are all free to say whatever we want, but that does not protect us from the consequences of what we say,especially with the important people in your life