A Little Happier: There’s Great Value, Especially in a Family, Of Knowing When to Say Nothing.

It’s time for the latest A Little Happier.

Can you think of a time when you — or someone else — managed to leave words unsaid? It’s harder than it sounds.

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  • Nicky

    Very insightful. I have been at the receiving end of criticism from both my own parents and my in laws (about issues involving our how we raise our children, run our household, for example..) and it can hurt. We have different values and lifestyles,to what they had when raising us, so naturally we do things differently. With that in mind, I have always said that when my own children are older, and when I become a grandma, I hope I can keep a respectful silence when they themselves do things differently. I would like to think i could behave like your Grandpa, instinctively knowing when not to say anything. Words can hurt, no matter how well intentioned.

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes – and the feeling of being judged puts distance there.

  • Donna

    “If you can’t say anything nice then say nothing at all”. Especially important between parent and adult child.

  • Mimi Gregor

    Indeed! There have been many times — even when asked a direct question — that I have decided to deflect it and say nothing. I try to stop short of an outright lie, but it’s important to choose one’s battles. I always ask myself, is this something the person can do something about? Is it an issue that is really important to me? Nine times out of ten, it is minutia, and — fortunately — I realize this before words come spilling out of my mouth. When acquaintances tell me some of the things they argue about with their husbands, I realize that most of what people seem to argue about is trivial stuff, like who is right and who is wrong on an issue. This recurrent arguing over the trivial seems to make them think they have an unhappy marriage, and I have even witnessed friendships end over what amounts to differences of opinion. If they only argued over what was really important and essential to them, they would find themselves arguing a good deal less — if at all. An argument usually starts with just one misguided sentence, then escalates from that. I’d say that knowing when to shut up is more important than knowing “the right thing to say”.