Once, when I was in high school, this guy, that I’ll call “Johnny ABC“, was saying, in the presence of a group, that his family came from a long line of famous people. Feeling a stupid need to challenge him on this, I replied that “The only place I’d seen your name was the name of a street“.
Well, later on, he confronted me and he was not happy. Luckily, I had the good sense to apologize and managed to defuse the situation, though I have the feeling that he harbored bad feelings about this in the back of his mind through the last time I saw him, which was at graduation.
In looking back, I realized several things. One, though I never meant to be insulting when I said what I said to him, it was insulting, especially in the way I said it. It implied that his name was associated with dirt, the gutter, the bad image of any street, so to speak.
Second, what he was saying could have been true, which would have made me look even more foolish in my playing the one-upmanship game.
Third, he wasn’t insulting me or challenging me when he said what he said, but was talking about himself.
What should I have done? Simple. I shouldn’t have said anything. I learned some important lessons through that experience.
First of all, even if I’m right, I learned it can often be better to keep quiet than to try to correct someone as it can make them feel foolish, especially if you’re among a group of people, and also make you look like you’re always trying to take people down or engage in one-upmanship.
In most cases, as long as one “knows the score”, that’s all that counts.
Of course, if the consequences of the other person being wrong can be detrimental, by all means, tell him or her! If Joan says she’s sure that the cake someone else brought over has no nuts and you know that it does have nuts and you know Joan is allergic to nuts, you must tell her!
All I’m saying here is to follow the adage, “Be sure your brain is running before you throw your mouth into gear!”
I have found more and more that it’s good to live by this.
Second, whatever the person is saying, they may just be right after all! Just because Johnny ABC’s name wasn’t Franklin, or Columbus, or Lincoln doesn’t mean that they aren’t related to him. Names change through marriage and other means as well. And I certainly didn’t know his family history, so who was I to say that he was wrong?
Finally, I’ve learned through this and some other experiences that I don’t need to be the smartest person in the room and that, if I do know something that I feel must be said, I don’t need to take someone else down to say it! And, whatever the other person is saying, if it’s not attacking me, I shouldn’t attack them.
If you feel the need to retort in a way that puts the other person down, or the need to challenge anything someone else says in order to get the last word or make yourself look more intelligent than the other person, try to quell it if possible, because it will eventually bite you back if you don’t.
And go ahead and have your say, just don’t do it a way that’s insulting or that tries to take someone else down. The idea is not to attack, but to contribute!
I found that I’ve learned much more by being humble and listening. I don’t usually learn as I speak if I’m just saying what I already know.
So remember, be sure your brain is running before you throw your mouth into gear!
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