I should add a disclaimer and say that this will probably be an unpopular post. It will also be an honest one. Recent events in my life have just inspired me to write about something that I’ve been meaning to speak my mind on for a long long time.
Its my opinion that culturally, Filipinos have always struggled to speak up for themselves. I think in our country we’ve learned to just shut up and get on with things no matter how much we struggle because speaking up never changed anything anyway. In addition, I think we’ve always been afraid of open confrontation. For us, talking to a person about an issue or concern is often seen as being aggressive.
The result is this passive-aggressive way of “fighting back” wherein we say nothing but we’re secretly fed up and furious, and rather than confronting the person involved, we go around talking to everyone else EXCEPT the person who should have been confronted in the first place.
I see this a lot whenever a group of Filipinos gather, both here in the UK and at home. If John had a problem with Paul, he would talk ABOUT him to every Tom, Dick and Harry but he wouldn’t actually talk TO Paul. Which doesn’t make sense because how would Paul even know there’s a problem if no one tells him?!
Being honest with another person is scary as hell. You’re making yourself vulnerable, and you’re putting your relationship with that person on the line because you never really know how people will receive your honesty. I get it. Sometimes its easier to brush it under the rug, or vent your frustration by talking to other people and hope that the issue goes away. In the long run though, how healthy do we really think that is? Does it really solve anything?
The thing I like about being in the UK and being exposed to different cultures is that you learn so many things, and one of the most important skills I’ve learned is how to handle difficult conversations and how to resolve a conflict. I don’t just mean at work but in general as well. A little bluntness goes a long way. I used to be afraid of people who wouldn’t think twice about giving their opinion or saying what they really think but I’ve really come to value the people in my life who will say things TO MY FACE rather than talk about me behind my back.
I don’t mean that we should all jump at the smallest issue and create a fuss. But we need to realise that we are all entitled to say what’s on our minds as long as we respect that the other person has that right too. Imagine if you’re having a conversation and you disagree about something that the other person said. What is so wrong about saying ‘I hear you, I get your side, but my opinion is this and this, what do you think?’ Or when someone has said something hurtful, what’s wrong with saying ‘hey, can we talk about when you said this and this. It just really hurt my feelings and I’d like to know why you said it.’ Or if you don’t like something, just say it. If you need help, don’t pretend to be all-knowing because there is absolutely no shame in admitting that you’re struggling with something. ASK FOR HELP.
We overcomplicate things when we don’t say the things we should at the moment when they should be said. We involve a bunch of people that should never have been involved in the first place because we’re too much of a coward to confront the person we should be confronting. This is all the more true when we’re dealing with friends.
It is so much harder to admit that a friend has hurt you compared to a colleague or an acquaintance. But true friendship can withstand a little honesty, I think you can only grow as friends if you deal with issues as they arise. I once had exactly 100 minutes of phone conversation with my friend Dengei so we could mend our friendship and now we’ve been close friends for more than 10 years.
My friend Christine once sent me a really hurtful email when we were 18 or 19 outlining the many ways that I have hurt her and my response was to not confront it and avoid her. Thank goodness our friendship meant enough to her that she initiated a conversation where she explained that all she really intended was for me to know her feelings, not to end our friendship. Its been 12 years since that incident and she was and still is one of my best friends, and we laugh about her “hate mail” from time to time. The strongest friendships I had are ones where I always know where I stand.
I’ve digressed a little bit.
Seriously though, one of the things I’ve reflected on this week is about being honest and upfront with other people. I hate that backbiting and gossiping about people behind their back is so entrenched in our culture, and I include myself in that number. The one thing that I try to do though is self-check and self-regulate: I never say anything about a person behind their back that I’m not comfortable saying to their face. If that’s weak, I’m sorry but its all I got.
So let’s all learn to be a bit more honest and speak our minds as appropriate. We save ourselves a lot of stress, frustration and misunderstanding that way.