Confessions Of A Mad Blurter: How Craig Ferguson's Words Helped Me Find Discretion

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Self

This is about my struggle with telling the truth. I tend to actually be too truthful. In fact, I have no filters, nor do I think before I speak. I just blurt, because, for some reason, I really think I have something valuable to say.

I am, of course, wrong.

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For the longest time, I believed that it was important and necessary to say whatever was on my mind and that something like giving out  'constructive criticism' was really beneficial and helpful to others — even if that critique was unsolicited. 

I was so in love with the sound of my own verbal acrobatics, that I convinced myself I could change lives by using the clarifying power of perfectly pointed words. I believed that I had this Muse-like energy within me and that I could quicken other people into making their lives better if only they would listen to me, this truth-teller who had no idea how clueless she really was.

Arrogant? Yes. Naive? Most definitely. Unaware of the damage I was causing? Unfortunately, yes.

Because as I went through life, dropping bombs of truth, hither and thither, I noticed something happening: I was hurting people — and that was NOT my intention.

My 'truth' may have been spot on or it may have been way off-base; either way, I felt compelled to be the messenger. And in the long run, every single message I delivered turned out to be unwanted, unappreciated, or just enough to make people not want to be around me.

I thought I was insightful. I thought my insights were life-changers, but what I hadn't counted on was that people don't want their lives changed. Nor do they want advice, or opinions, or anything that's going to make them think, or heaven-forbid, see themselves through my eyes.

And they certainly don't want to hear opinions from someone who sounds like they've read too much Freud or Aristotle. It isn't for me to be the one to lift the veil on a person's life, no matter how right I think I am, but it took years for me to catch on to this.

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I could see a problem within a person and with surgical exactitude, I could reveal to them their issues, where they went wrong, and what they could do to navigate a better trajectory. I was like House, the TV doctor played by Hugh Laurie, who intuits disease just by being close to the person who has it.

And like House, I would pull no punches; this is what's wrong with you and this is what you can do about it. Stand aside, here comes the truth-teller. 

Is it that no one wanted to hear the truth? Or is it that they just didn't want to hear it from me or anyone else, for that matter? I was always on the mark but the mark is cruel. What did I expect? A welcome mat that says, "Please rip my world apart as only you can."

No matter how much I may have wanted to help, I always ended up with the same conclusion: No one wants my opinion. Shut up, Svengali, go away.

Does the truth always need to be said? I know it sets us free, that's for sure ... but does it always need to be spoken aloud? No, it doesn't, and it all became quite clear for me when I read Craig Ferguson's words on communication:

Craig says that before we say anything to anyone, we should always ask ourselves these three questions:

1. Does this need to be said?

2. Does this need to be said by me?

3. Does this need to be said by me now?

The working word here is 'need.' Is anything that I say, in the name of truth 'needed'? No, none of it is needed. Nobody NEEDS my advice or my take on the truth. It's not needed to be said by me, nor is it needed to be said by me, NOW.

Now, my path is all about discretion, and the strength to withhold. I hurt people when I speak, and I do not want to do that. Can I resist giving 'critique'? Can I be content to stay silent, knowing that if I speak, I may destroy someone?

I'm way too good at delivering messages. I know exactly how to say what's on my mind, but does that necessarily mean I should? In other words, 'just because you can, doesn't mean you should.'

And now, before I speak, I ask myself these questions.

Does this need to be said? Maybe, but if it's that important, perhaps the person already knows what's going on and doesn't want to talk about it, which is their choice, not mine.

Does this need to be said by me? Probably not, as I tend to get a little too 'up close and personal' when I say almost anything, and that is both obnoxious and nervy.

Does this need to be said by me now? Well, if it doesn't need to be said, by me, then it definitely doesn't need to be said right now.

The questions that will arise for me in the future will be those I can answer with maturity and hopefully, a smaller ego.

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The questions that surface for me now are:

1. Can I live without saying everything that's on my mind, without considering this state to be one of repression?

2. Can I find beauty and grace in discretion, or will I feel like a failure because I held back?

3. Can I still express what's on my mind, even though my truth may not be the same as someone else's?

The answers to these questions are...

1. Yes, I can live and speak freely, as long as I am aware of other people's boundaries. 

2. Yes, I can absolutely find grace in discretion without feeling like there's a gag order placed upon me.

And the answer to the last question is...

3. Well, there's always writing...

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Dori Hartley is a writer, sculptor, and doll maker. She has been featured in The Huffington Post, ParentDish, The Daily Beast, Psychology Today, and more. Follow her on Instagram.