What Aren’t You Saying? (Or Choosing Your Battles Wisely)

A few months ago, my interesting exchange with my Fil-Canadian cousin, then vacationing in the Philippines, made me ponder on my life as a communications professional — as well as a person who just loves speaking his mind out. 
On the way to R.O.X. in Bonifacio High Street, Taguig (I wanted her to experience indoor wall-climbing in the sports shop — should you want to try it out, the guys managing the wall are really helpful and nice), what started off as a very casual chitchat became a discussion on religion, poverty in the Philippines, and the RH Bill. 

Though her intelligent/informed opinions on the topics that cropped up were insightful, my main takeaway from our discussion was the manner she voiced her thoughts. 

Naturally, I assumed that she would easily let her guard down since she was with her cousins — but I eventually noticed along our exchange that she was very carefully choosing her words, even pausing for periods of time just to compose her statements in a very antiseptic way. 

Just to be clear: one, I think my cousin’s tactfulness is not a bad trait (cheers to my aunt and uncle for her upbringing.) 

Two, I know that being mindful of what we say helps us avoid unnecessary friction with peers, and filtering our thoughts into easily-digestible ideas allows us to communicate better with different groups. 

Three, I also believe a certain level of classiness should be observed, especially when you’re in public/in the company of strangers, because these people often do not understand your background and may not have the same context as you do. 

But in the exchange of ideas, sometimes dishing it out plainly is the best action to drive home a point — minus the metaphors and euphemisms. 

When Nice isn’t Good Anymore – or, When to Screw the Strict Rules of Polite Society

To make this story more personal: having been vegetarian for eight years, I’ve experienced being mocked by friends and acquaintances for my lifestyle. (It’s amusing how meat-eaters suddenly become experts on protein deficiency in the presence of a vegetarian!) I often grin and bear it because I know that being too sensitive about this only invites more mockery and laughter, but there would be moments when I would want to confront people with a snarky retort or two, just to point out how silly I think their ideas are. 

While making enemies is undesirable, holding strong opinions will inevitably polarize groups. I think it takes a certain level of sensitivity to know when to let an issue go and when to put one’s foot down. 

Of course it can really get inconvenient, and a lot of us honestly would rather steer around those epicenters of potential conflict. But I think that, given a choice between the truth at the risk of war and peace propped up by lies, the former is always worth the battle. 

Diplomacy isn’t bullshit – it serves a particular purpose to gently introduce the truth to closed minds. But we can’t always be walking on eggshells if we want to change the world. History rarely gives way to the ones who stand in the middle.  

(Oh – and this, by the way: DFA chief breaks ‘niceties’ to defend PH – report)

By Evan Tan

Evan Tan is a writer & communications professional based in Manila, Philippines.

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