To blurt is to burst out with words one later regrets, such as flippantly and thoughtlessly voicing a criticism, saying yes to a request when we really mean no, or revealing a surprise before its time.
This “open mouth insert foot” approach doesn’t win friends or influence people except in negative ways.
These days I’m courting Patience and wooing Tact, seeking a more mindful approach to silence and speech. I was reminded of the importance of this recently when sitting with two friends, one of them a Cook Islander who is building a house on a small plot of land.
“Couldn’t you get anything better?” asked the other.
“What about your uncle’s house? Couldn’t you live there? It’s going to be so noisy where you’re building.”
Oy! The worst insult to a Cook Islander is disrespect about their land - the sacred root of culture, family and personal values - their turanga vaevae. I was mortified, but sat in stunned silence, feeling rightly or wrongly that to intervene might make things worse. To her credit, the landowner didn’t get defensive and handled the situation with grace. This incident stirred me to look at two of the Sunset Meditation cards my husband and I recently created, and which I use daily for a Virtues Pick. Here is the text from each:
“Tact – Speaking truth with kindness. Know when to speak up and when to be silent. Be considerate of others, especially when strong feelings arise. This quiet discipline is powerful diplomacy of the heart. It opens the door to understanding. ‘A soft answer turns away wrath but a grievous words stir up anger.’ Proverbs 15:1”
What if the friend who spoke up did it kindly, asked a different question, dropping the implied judgmental insult. “How did you choose that piece of land?” If it were up to me, she would have instead chosen to be silent about it.
For me, another virtue arose during this interaction: “Patience – Trust the process. Peacefully, we await the unfoldment of things. Patience helps us to discern when to move and when to be still, trusting the right result will come without pushing for control. Things bloom in their own time. ‘One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a while life.’ Confucius”
The next day I connected with my Cook Island friend and told her that I admired her tact, patience, and graciousness to carry on the conversation after the offending, blurted comments were made. When our words are weighty, we need to weigh our words, whether name-calling a child as useless, a liar, or bully, or making thoughtless remarks to loved ones or others. Truthfully, our words are always weighty, but to our intimates one negative word is like a grain of sand in their eye. Even one tactless word cuts them badly.
In another conversation with local friends, we were talking about boundaries and all admitted that sometimes we say yes to our children when we should say no, or say yes spontaneously when asked to do something we don’t really want to do, despite our inner wisdom calling “No, no, no”.
The key to developing more mindful responses is resisting the blurt, and taking time to consider them with wisdom and honesty. Stop and think. Do I really want to do this? Will this help my children or make them needlessly dependent?
Virtues such as tact, wisdom, patience and honesty aren’t just nice to have. They’re essential to anyone wanting to live a mindful, loving life that nurtures others and ourselves.