When the Truth Will Cause Harm, Say Nothing

As many of you know, I’ve been traveling to promote my most recent mystery. The greatest part of conferences and signing events is getting to know other writers and readers on a more personal level. I have to admit though, it’s challenging for me. I don’t like traveling without my loved ones, and I’ve already earned more than my share of frequent flyer miles.  Still, I’m forcing myself to get out there and do it.  Most of the time I feel great about my interactions.  Sometimes, I don’t. 

This past weekend I had an odd conflict that ended badly.  No blows were thrown. Neither of us landed in a jail cell. But I’m pretty sure that a newly forming friendship was irreparably damaged. The argument started over dinner when a fellow writer animatedly criticized the presentations at a “new author” event. I pretended to take her words personally (I was one of the presenters) but that wasn’t the issue. I felt quite confident in my performance that morning.  Pretending to be personally affronted was simply the easiest way to end the discussion. Or so I thought.

My true emotion was one of protectiveness–like a grizzly bear defending her cubs.  Frankly, I was happy for my new author friends that morning. Public speaking comes easily to me. I’ve done it competitively since I was 14, and I make my living teaching. But for some people, it is terrifying. Finding the courage to present to  over 100 people can be a huge accomplishment. It’s easy for someone with greater experience to pass judgment on a newbie’s less-than-perfect job. It’s even easier to talk about it when the person being criticized isn’t  in the room.  But who does it help?

Believe me, I’m not the victor here, and no one who watched that interaction would want me as their role model. I suspect that if you asked five of the six people at the table, they’d tell you I was the one out of line. But there’s a lesson to be learned, and that lesson is worth sharing.  The yoga teachings on communication say it best.

Speak less.

Speak only the truth.

When the truth will cause harm, say nothing.

In hindsight, that’s what I should have done at that dinner. Said nothing. Even better, I should have simply found an excuse to leave the table.  And, as the Sutras also teach, my reaction said more about me than the person I reacted to.  Maybe I’m more like my protagonist, Kate, than I care to admit. It’s time for me to re-examine the other communications in my life.  I already see a few patterns that need changing.

How about you?  Are there times you should say nothing?


Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere

8 thoughts on “When the Truth Will Cause Harm, Say Nothing

  1. Becky

    It’s always easier to see in hindsight what we should have done, right? It sounds like your awareness and ability to see the situation from multiple perspectives helped, even if it was after the fact. And even better, you’re already looking for ways to avoid repeating that type of conversation in the future. That’s awesome!

    On another note, from someone who suffers anxiety attacks if the grocery store is too crowded, who all too often allows a pinch of criticism to outweigh a pound of praise, and who is not looking forward to public speaking, thank you for defending newbie authors. Any yoga tips to avoid hyperventilating?

    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling. Sitting either in a chair or on the floor is fine, as long as you are physically comfortable and your spine is in “neutral.”
      2. Allow your eyes to close and your focus to go internal.
      3. Notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. Feel the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils. Allow your mind to focus on and pay attention to this feeling of the breath. This will be your anchor and where you will invite your attention whenever your mind wanders.
      4. Imagine yourself stepping up to the front of the room, feeling confident–even having fun.
      ? What do you feel in your muscles?
      ? What is the rhythm of your breath?
      ? What sensations do you feel in your jaw and face?
      ? Are your hands, toes, and jaw relaxed?
      ? What sensations do you feel internally in your throat, your stomach, your chest?
      ? What facial expression do you imagine you are wearing?
      ? What is your “inner dialogue” like?
      5. Try to experience being confident and having fun in front of a group with all of your senses. If you notice a muscle group tensing, your breath shortening, or your gremlin mind giving you doubts, take a deep breath and go back to the feeling of the breath inside your nostrils in step three.
      6. Continue this visualization for 5 minutes or longer if you’d like.
      The idea is that you’re teaching your body to react differently. Mentally rehearsing confidence, so that you it feels more natural.
      I hope that helps, and thanks for the blog article idea!

  2. Jeanie Jackson

    It too would have found it necessary to defend, and later I might have thought of the best way to convey my message without and argument, maybe. I respect that you spoke up. These newbies are presenting themselves as authors, not speakers. I think it is brave of all of you to be willing to speak in public. I am sure that all of the ones who were less than scintillating will improve over time, as long as the first experiences are not too bad. The other woman was rude, the end.

    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      Thanks, Jeanie. I do think I could have done much better in this circumstance. There are learnings to be had when we’re willing to look for them.

  3. DV Berkom

    Sorry you had to put up with that, Tracy (and so sorry we didn’t get a chance to meet up while there! Soooo many people!) I generally don’t pay attention to people who lack compassion. Life’s too short. Wish I would have gone to the new author breakfast to show my support!

    I also had a moment at the conference this weekend when another author said some laughably sexist comments in a conversation we were having. At first I thought about arguing with him, but decided to let it go. I felt kind of sorry for him, as he was living in a world most of us have left behind, and seemed lonely. It was also possible he was fishing for an argument or some kind of reaction from me, and I just didn’t have the energy to oblige him. Oh well. Ya do what seems best at the time.

    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      The trick is knowing when to ignore and when to argue. I’m not always good at picking the right choice. 😉 And as I said, my reaction says more about me than the other person in the conversation. You never know what someone else’s life is like, and you can’t tell their intentions. At first I told myself I was reacting to negative energy. They I realized I was, and it was probably the energy coming from me. 😉 Maybe we’ll meet at Malice?

  4. Nancy Perkins

    Tracy, I saw myself a little in this post. I would not have said a thing had I been the subject of criticism, no matter the sting, I would have publicly shrugged it off , probably joked about it, and nursed my wounds in private. That’s my defense mechanism
    For another, I would have felt that I must come to their defense. The effect is that things don’t blow over, to be forgotten. I see it as a fault of mine which I am trying to overcome. When I reflect back, I am acutely embarrassed by my actions, often apologizing for my poor judgment. Sigh. One day- make that- one moment at a time.


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