Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln


I was four years old when my dad told me, “Before you say something, you have to think of how it will make people feel when you say it.” It was good advice and I call it the Think/Say filter. Essentially, there are things we think and things we say and that it’s not always a good idea to say out loud the things we’re thinking.

We can’t help what we think about people or things, but the decision to share our thoughts with others in a conscious choice. Now, we might employ the Think/Say filter to avoid hurting others either with a comment about their beauty (or lack thereof) or their intelligence (or lack thereof) or their taste. Or it might be that we have an opinion that could be considered unpopular or just plain wrong. We might not be absolutely sure of our facts, for example. The quote up there sums this up quite neatly I think.

There are people who don’t seem to understand the concept of the Think/Say filter. It might be because they genuinely don’t understand there import of their words or it could be that they come from a more direct culture. You know how the Dutch don’t ever close their curtains? I know Germans and Swedes for whom saying exactly what one means, honestly, is paramount and some of the things they say don’t go down well in a culture accustomed to hyper-politesse and tact.

Some people, however, seem to revel in “telling it like it is.” They can be as rude or inconsiderate or hurtful as they like under the pretext of straightforwardness or, even, integrity. Such people can wreak havoc on people around them, sometimes unwittingly, sometimes glorying in their no filter straight talk. They’re not banged to rights when they’re surrounded by those who value diplomacy, so they seem to get away with all sorts of things while the people around them shrug their shoulders and say “Oh, that’s just them.”

Generallly, I have a pretty strong Think/Say filter. I wouldn’t ever go out of my way to offend someone, of course, and it’s a good habit to practise. But sometimes, just sometimes, I long to be rid of it. Especially with those people who don’t have a filter.

What do you think would happen if we stopped using our filters?

“That’s a really uninformed thing to say and it’s made you look stupid.”

“Yes, your bum does look big in that but it’s not the skirt. It’s because your bum is big.”

“I wish you’d stop going on about your blessed child prodigy. We’ve all been there and done that already. Do you really think that you’re that special?”

“This soup is lumpy and cold. Your food is never nice. Have you ever tried actually reading that recipe?

“Your idealism wouldn’t work for anyone outside that bubble of yours but you’re too removed from reality to understand that.”

“I’m fed up with your rude behaviour towards me and I’m only here for the sake of appearances.”

“Your breath stinks and you’re dreadfully dull.”

“You’re an awful driver and I’m both embarrassed and afraid to get in the car with you.”

“Your inability to dance betrays completely your lack of prowess between the sheets”

Well, perhaps not. I could go on, but I shan’t. I wonder what life would be like if everyone dropped their Think/Say filter. Would a completely honest world be a better one?

Personally I prefer a little finesse, a little charm, in people’s dealings with me but too much oleaginousness and my Think/Say filter detects disingenuousness and I stop believing people.

Should we all just say what we think? If we don’t does that make us hypocrites or liars? Are courtesy and manners modesty screens for a personality that’s too cowardly to tell the truth?

I don’t know. What do you think?