Do you frequently find yourself–just to be polite–saying things you don’t mean? For example, when you say good-bye to someone who does not interest you, do you act as though you enjoyed their company?
Of course I do. That’s because I’m not the only person in this world who has independent thoughts and feelings. Therefore, I have to have empathy when dealing with people around me. So, as not to hurt feelings, whether I’ve actually had a good time or not, I’m gonna do my best to leave things on a good note.
As an introvert, it sure would be easy to say, “Well, I’d have rather stayed in tonight and watching Jeopardy… Good night!” But that’s rude. And I’m not going to say something like that to someone I’ve chosen to spend time with.
The exception would be if it’s someone I know really well, who also knows me really well. Then I would be more likely to be honest if I wasn’t having a great time. I feel like we’re more likely to be willing to hurt the feelings of the people closest to us. Not that sharing my honest feelings about something would be done with the intent of hurting feelings. Sometimes empathy fails me…
I’m reminded of an episode of How I Met Your Mother. Lily (Alyson Hannigan) invites the gang out to see her in a play that someone she knows is putting on. It’s terrible. And when it’s all over, most of Lily’s friends give her compliments regarding the play. Except for Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), who flat out tells her it was awful. Of course, Lily takes offense to this. Clearly, Barney lacks empathy. But, Lily is a teacher, and she attempts to explain to Barney that, in polite society, even among friends, you try to build each other up, even if it’s a lie. Barney takes that as a challenge and, to prove a point, decides to put on his own terrible one man show, which he titles Suck It, Lily! He doesn’t even get to finish the show before Lily concedes that Barney has a point.
What about you? Are you more like Barney? Or do you hand out platitudes like the rest of Lily’s friends? Do you tell people things just to be polite? What kinds of things do you say that you know you don’t mean? Would you be willing to hurt someone’s feelings for the sake of honesty? Let me know down in the comments!
*The Question of the Week can be found in The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.