Vision: Say What? By Howard Hanger

February 28, 2019 |

There are many things that shouldn’t be said. I usually realize what they are as soon as I say them.

“Maybe next time” is perhaps not the best way to RSVP a wedding invitation. Or, “Hope the cake is gluten free” is not so good a Birthday Party invite.  Have you ever been talking to, say, an auto parts guy, and while he is away from the phone, your mind drifts to your sweetie and wanders into some sexy thoughts? So when he returns to the phone and says he can’t find the part, still in sweetie mode, you say, “OK. Bye. I love you.”

Never, in talking to a 15-year-old girl, is it a good idea to bring up the subject of acne, much less say to her, “Don’t worry, honey. Hardly anyone will notice those zits on your nose.” 14-year-old boys will probably not appreciate comments like, “You play video games? You look smarter than that.”

Fat jokes. Small people jokes. Racial jokes. Ethnic jokes. Political jokes. Sex jokes. Almost all are guaranteed to offend someone, someplace at some time.

Truth is, sooner or later, we all put our feet in our mouths. We all say things that are misinterpreted, misjudged, misconstrued or just plain insensitive. Oscar Wilde wrote, “A true gentleman is one who never gives offense unintentionally,” meaning, perhaps, that a true gentleman always watches their words and gives offense only intentionally. But old Oscar’s definition would take most of us off the “true gentleman” list.  Whether we like it or not, we can each and all come off as offensive and rude.

But rather than getting all willy-nilly for fear of offending someone inadvertently; maybe a better way to go would be the kind-words route. In conversation, be it casual grocery-line chatter, old friends meeting on the street prattle or some late night profound ruminations about life and death, rather than constantly trying to come up with something clever or crafty to say, why not lead with a simple complement – a little comment of affirmation or admiration?

There is never an inappropriate time for a caring comment or an encouraging expression. And perhaps if we focused on that a bit more, we might spend less time with toe-jam between our teeth.

My dad was not a joiner. He shied away from membership to any group or organization. But he often said that he did have a favorite club. His one and only. He called it the “Compliment Club” and he joined it because it a) never had meetings, b) charged no dues, c) required no voting or officers. To be a member of the Compliment Club, all you need do is offer three honest compliments a day. That’s it. Three compliments a day. No one kept track but you. No one reminded you. If you skipped a day or two, there were no fines, fees or reprimands. Membership was totally your responsibility.

Dad said the Compliment Club was the only club he would ever join because, unlike other clubs, it always made him feel better to be a member. Always.  And, chances are, being an active member of that club always made others feel better and made the world a better place.

There are many things that could be said.  I usually realize what they are as soon as I say them.