How To Say Anything Without Being Mean

feedback rules

When of my first lessons as a foster parent caring for teens in trouble with the law was the need to control “mean” language. Being a therapist for the first set of kids sent to live with us, we ignored language and focused only on unacceptable behavior. Did not turn out well. You can read about that in the ebook version of When Good Kids Do Bad Things which you can buy for under ten dollars.

It was my husband who trained dogs, who figured out one source of the problem. He pointed out that growling in dogs was a warning; when not heeded the growling lead to trouble.

Cursing, threats, and other mean talk works the same in humans. He insisted we start heeding the warning.   We expressed anger if heard treats or curse words. Then we did two things: Established a fine for bad talk and banished the offenders to their bedrooms, until they were back in control. That seemed to satisfy the child’s need to be acknowledged.  Thereafter, things never again got as bad as they had with the first six  foster children. Remember  300 plus foster children lived with us for varying periods of time during our years as foster parents.

That was back in the seventies. Sad to say, the culture is now torn between the F-sayers and the veneration of Political Correctness.  Neither are helping keep us civil.

As noted, F-saying is a prelude to action. Hurt and angry people want release and often that means recognition of their hurt. some revenge. When we ignored our foster children’s mild attempts to express their hurts, they had to growl louder and eventually to bit.

Why is Political Correctness a problem? Well here are my thoughts. Originally, the intent was to stop hurting people with words, particularly the N-word and similar nasty labeling of groups of people. Then it got extended in all sorts of way. For example, at one Ivy League School I taught at prided itself on being a champion of the oppressed.

Good but got taken to an extreme. An example?  I got hauled before the Dean, when a student complained that I said “Not all things are black or white.”  This was not in reference to a person, but a research finding. I was trying to make the point that even research needed to be thought about carefully. The student was acting out of her hurt feelings and misapplying them to my statement. She needed to separate her personal feelings from my intent and usage of the words “black and white.”  Instead, she added to her resentment of white people when it was not deserved.

We can see both of these problems at play in many protest marches that turn violent and the upsurge in violence, particularly violence against the police.

Emotional Fitness Tips

This tips will help you say what you need to say, but in ways that will let you be heard more often.

Tip one. Make sure it needs saying. If you hate purple hair and your best friend recently  turned her crowning glory purple, no need to comment, none at all. The same friend is too drunk to drive, you are obligated to grab her car keys and drive her home.

In terms of personal relationships, it is particularly important to both deal with the things that the other does that bother you, but first if not to let so much bother you, we are all annoying to someone in someway.  So learning not to sweat the small stuff is important.  What is small stuff? Many things beginning with how a friend dresses, looks, and his or her political or religious beliefs.

What is the big stuff? Dangerous behavior, cruel behavior whether intended or not, and any major lack of respect for others.

The small stuff has to be dealt with ignoring it; that means as Scotty says on Star Trek, “Shields up.”

Self-soothing skills are the shields to use in keeping the small stuff from getting to our hearts.

Tip two: Use  the “Three Strikes, Three Outs” rule when deciding if something needs saying. You might even want to think about a Nine Innings before venturing to say something, particularly with cherished relationship.

Tip three: Timing is everything. In the moment is usually the wrong time. Why the Three Strikes, Three Outs, Nine Innings rule helps by giving you time to think and say what needs saying more gently than if spouted out as it happens.

Tip four: Sometimes a letter says it best.

Tip five: Beat a hasty retreat if the person cannot handle what you are saying.  Apologise instantly and change the subject.

Tip six: Practice John Gottman’s Five in One Rule after offering feedback by making sure your next five interactions are positive ones.  

As Henry David Thoreau noted, “True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.”

Thank you for all you do

Remember to share all you find of value on the internet.  All who post crave recognition. A like says “Thank You.” Comments say you have read and thought about the post. Sharing is a gift to three people: the blogger, the people you share with, and you for your kindness blesses you.


Post Inspiration: This post was not inspired  by the WordPress Daily  Prompt: Eerie.  However, with all the ranting and raving and nasty talk currently about, some will find this approach eerie.

Go here to learn more about the Daily Prompts.

Links of Interest

These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.

Even the most learned researchers and therapists quarrel about much.  Take their advice and mine carefully.  Don’t just listen to your heart, but also think; don’t just think, listen to your heart.  Heart and head working together increase the odds you will find useful advice amid all the promises and hopes pushed at you be others.  As others have noted, take what seems useful, leave the rest.

Disclaimer two: Forgive my grammatical errors

If  you need perfect posts, you will not find them  here;  I will understand if you don’t follow, like or share what  like me.  Not only am I dealing with an aging brain, but all of my life I have been plagued by dysgraphia–a learning disability,  Some of my posts might be peppered with bad spelling, poor punctuation, and worse words that make no sense.  If  you want to hang in with me, thank you; you are kind. If a post doesn’t make sense or bugs you too much, stop reading, I will understand.


  1. How wonderful of you to take in and help so many kids over the years! I greatly admire you for that. And thank you as well for sharing these helpful tips. I’ve been very fortunate to spend most of my time around civil, level-headed people — but I’ll keep your suggestions in mind just in case. Thank you!

    • Thank you for commenting, it was a wild ride and many moments when I was sure it was a symptom of mutual psychosis. My birth kids suffered, but seem to have gained more than was lost. How fortunate you are to have been surrounded by civil, level headed-people.

Agree or disagree, comments are always welcomed.

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