Monday, August 20, 2012

Civility Week 34, 2012 August 20, 2012

“As a quick aside, let me observe that in moments of high emotion....if the next thing you're going to say makes you feel better, then it's probably the wrong thing to say. This is one of the finer maxims that I've discovered in life. And you can have it, since it's been of no use to me.”
Amor Towles, Rules of Civility

In other words, watch what you say.  I used to be so very good at this. Watching what I say. But then, when I was younger I was much more shy. I didn’t talk much around people. I think it’s why I became a writer. I didn’t have to talk, just observe and then create characters who talked, who always knew the right things to say.

I was always a little jealous of my characters because of that. They knew exactly what to say. Me? I used to be one of those people who fifteen minutes after a conversation has ended thinks of a perfect comeback line.

But in all honestly as I look back know, maybe I had the right idea all along in my younger days. I mean if you are quiet and don’t feel the need to comment on everything everyone else is saying, you don’t err in saying the wrong thing. You are considered shy of course and sometimes that makes it hard to connect with people. But you don’t risk making enemies right out of the shoot either!

Being outspoken isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It can get you in trouble, or be embarrassing.  I have discovered that the personality people think I have, safe, nice and goody-goody, can quickly get out of whack when I make a smart alek comment or interrupt with a funny aside in the middle of a conversation. They don’t know how to take it. And honestly, I feel very conspicuous after making it, not comfortable in my own skin kind of thing.

So I’ve begun working on keeping more quiet, to not have a funny reply or a comment during every conversation I get involved in. I wanted to go back to the old way in part because as my kids are getting older.  They have comments they want to be heard and I need to sit back and let them talk. When they were little I was the main conversationalist, because they couldn’t talk I had to teach them things. But they don’t need that any more.  I probably could have quit that a long time ago for that matter, but it’s only recently come to light that I think I talk too much sometimes. My own observation, no body has actually said that to me!

Secondly I’ve discovered that even if some of the things I say are funny it was usually at someone’s expense. Ouch. No one likes to be made fun of.  So risking someone else getting angry at me for a few moments of laughter is not making me the kind of person I want to be.   I would much rather be deemed shy than hurt their feelings.  Then there is always that “calling attention to myself” issue. If I am busy making comments or thinking of funny things to say, am I really listening or am I more concerned with trying to become a good conversationalist?

So I look at this quote today as a lesson for myself. Keep your mouth closed, Lisa. Whatever funny thing comes to your mind can be saved for the next book character you write dialogue for. Somehow it’s always funnier coming from him or her than it is from me!

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