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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Shopping for Truth: Just say what you mean to say

Published: August 29, 2008
Section: Opinions

When you’re younger, everything is as simple as a schoolyard game. Everything comes with rules and if you break them, that’s it. There’s no gray area, no in between, no ‘exceptions.’ But suddenly things change and you grow up.

Now that I’m older, I sometimes wish that life came with a user’s manual- How should I deal with this situation? What in the world am I supposed to say to that? -But sadly, none exists, and if it did, it would surely shatter all of J.K. Rowling’s’ sale records.

When you’re a kid, you can say anything you want to say even with a limited vocabulary. So why is it that brilliant adults and young adults have trouble saying what they mean to say in even the most simple of situations?

Someone can be so academically intelligent, but completely-excuse the bluntness-downright clueless when it comes to interpersonal dealings with other human beings. People don’t know how to say what they mean to say to other people and oftentimes end up avoiding a question or sugarcoating what they really mean.

But why must we dodge the issue so much like a game of lily pads? I can’t help but recall how, as a young child, I used to play leap around the lily pad with my older sister. At that young age, you truly believe that you must jump around the lily pad or something terrible will happen. Now looking back, I can clearly see that the worst that could have happened was maybe that I would scrape my knee on the pavement if I wasn’t careful enough (not that that wouldn’t already have happened because I’m so clumsy).

It’s like the well-known saying “Do these pants make me look fat?” What are you supposed to say to that? Do you tell the person that they actually do look terrible in those pants or do you let them walk out the door looking horrible?

I’ve come to believe that most people only feel completely comfortable “Saying what they need to say” in front of those they trust the most. I for one have always been unabashed in front of my immediate family. People always have said that this is because your family will always love you. In hearing this, I cannot help but be reminded of a quote from the film The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

In the particular scene I am thinking of, one of the main characters, Carmen, asks one of her best friends, Tibby, why it is so easy for her to be mad at Tibby but not at her own father. Having had relatively small contact with her father since her parents divorced years ago, Carmen plays the lily pad game and shies away from telling her father she is upset at him at many points in the film.

Tibby, wise soul that she is, replies “because you know we’ll always love you.” So simple, but so true. Because if you cannot be honest with the ones you deem closest to you, what do you really have?

Surely, there are many instances where one should zip their lips to avoid trivial and passing conflict. Like the boy who cried wolf, no one will listen to you if you are forever whining, but there comes a time in everyone’s life where they cannot simply sit back and watch anymore. But if someone is worth your time, than you owe it to them to at least be honest with them.

And that goes with actions also. It is cliché, but actions do speak louder than words. Take promises, for instance. There is absolutely nothing worse than the serial promise maker. We all know one of them-they roll off all of these promises of things they will do, fill their text messages with multiple “defs,” and yet, they never actually follow through on what they ‘promised’ they would do.

In this situation, perhaps it would be better to simply say what you mean to say and tell people you “might” be able to do something or you’re not sure, rather than saying “def.”

Personally, I’m much more likely to forgive and forget if someone is upfront with me and tells me they “might” be able to help or do something rather than lie to me about their true intentions.

The world would be a much more considerate one if people stepped out of their own minds and actually tried to consider other people’s feelings for more than just a fleeting second.

So, we’ve covered how people don’t say what they mean to say. Now come the cases where we actually don’t say what we mean to say, we write it. As a writer, I completely value the opportunity that writing affords us to eloquently express what we need to say when emotions might otherwise prevent us from presenting our thoughts in a cohesive manner, so write away! But that doesn’t mean that we should use technology as a copout. If writing is really the only way you can express your thoughts, go ahead, but that does not by any means excuse laziness.

In our age of text messages and emails, we need not actually muster up the courage to face someone face to face with the ugly truths; we no longer must truly address what is on our minds. An apology is as simple as a quick text, a Facebook wall posting, or a one sentence email where we need not show our emotion.

Don’t think I hate texting because I think my unlimited texting plan would show you otherwise, but perhaps we should be more aware of what we do so automatically. Say-don’t write or skirt around-what you need to say, because if it is worth saying than it’s worth the risk.

Like John Mayer says in his song of the same title as this column, “It’s better to say too much than never to say what you mean to say.” Enough said.