Kristina and I are learning American Sign Language (ASL) in order to be able to do wellness coaching for the hearing impaired at RIT and the National Technical Institute of the Deaf (NTID). We are both at the same level of skill and comprehension (quite low, but working hard on it!). On Tuesday, our ASL teacher, Jennie, was teaching us some health and wellness vocabulary—and one of the words she showed us was “fat.” As soon as she showed it to us, she exclaimed, “But don’t ever say that to anyone!” It would be mean, just like saying it verbally would be.
This made me think about tact and truth, and finding a balance with people so I don’t become an enabler instead of a coach. True, I would never walk into someone’s office and tell them what they need to change. However, throughout a conversation there are many opportunities to address someone being in denial or being closed-minded about options or needs.
Have you ever had your feelings hurt by someone who pointed out something about you that was actually true? It’s kind of like the joke men have about not being able to answer correctly when his wife asks, “Does this make my butt look big?” Honestly, there probably is not a correct answer to that in most relationships. But why? Is it because we don’t want to know the truth? Or because we’re used to people just saying what will make us feel best?
I’m not sure how to address this on a large scale, because I think our society and culture has really trained us not to be honest when it might hurt someone’s feelings. Plus, many times if someone you’re close with gives you constructive criticism, it elicits a defense mechanism in you—then the issue becomes about other things and about the fact that someone “insulted” you.
My solution is to have a couple people in your life who you can really trust to tell you the truth, and you can take it (even if it hurts a little) without being defensive and/or getting mad at them. In my life, I know I can always trust my Mom to be honest—-however, she is also my biggest supporter, so I can’t rely on her to be completely objective. I have other go-to friends and people that fit the bill in certain categories…people who bring me back to earth when I need it.
It’s much less stressful this way—I can ask their opinions and then trust the answers, even if they hurt me or my ego a little!