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9 Situations Where It’s Best to Hold Our Tongues

Knowing what to say is important, but the real deal is to know when to keep your mouth shut. The next time you feel like you have to respond to someone, especially if you’re angry, remember the words of famous Sufi poet Rumi: “The quieter you become, the more you’re able to hear.” And listening more and better hasn’t caused any tension, unlike talking when you just need to be quiet.

At Bright Side, we’ve prepared a list for you to help you know when and how to stay in silence in case you’re not sure.

1. If it’ll make the other person mad

During an argument, silence will help you listen closely and you’ll realize your conversation partner will eventually wear themselves out by talking. In a situation where it’s necessary for you to give feedback about someone or an incident you don’t like, give yourself 5 seconds to gather your thoughts before commenting.

You can try affirmation, rather than objection. For example, if someone’s telling you how bad their hair looks today and you also agree, you don’t have to lie. You can reply with something about how hard it is to keep your hair looking good when it’s hot or cold outside. Showing empathy will prevent any possible conflicts.

2. If it’ll make you even madder

You’re provoking yourself more than you think and anger hasn’t solved the problem yet. You may have the right to be mad, but trying to talk while you’re in that mood will only make the other person mad, creating an anger loop. When conversation is pointless, it’s better to shut it down.

This also applies when you’re trying to talk to someone who doesn’t or isn’t willing to understand your point. You will not teach them anything new and they will not think you’re right at the end. Save your breath for more useful conversations.

3. If you want to correct someone’s mistake

Even if your only intention is to help, don’t correct anyone, especially if you don’t know them very well. Leaving mistakes as they are is more preferable than looking like a smarty-pants.

4. If it’ll offend somebody

You may think that no one would say something to deliberately offend another person, but that’s incorrect. Without even noticing, we occasionally do that to make a power move or out of jealousy. It mostly gets delivered by way of sarcasm, but that doesn’t make it less offensive. Silence is a strong answer as it is and it will make you look better than your own attempt at a cool self-image.

5. If you speak just for the sake of speaking

The first rule of talking is to not talk just to say something. If your words won’t contribute to the occasion, you can save them for another time. You might encounter this kind of talking behavior at school and work. For example: when the meeting is almost over, a random question might pop up, sometimes out of fawning or overenthusiasm. Everyone hates that person. Don’t be that person.

6. If it’ll drag someone else into the conversation

Knowing your friend’s secrets will make you closer to them, unless you involve a third person. It can be overwhelming to hold in certain information. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t make it about yourself. If it feels like gossiping, it probably is and you are obliged to hold your tongue. Moreover, you shouldn’t lay the burden of knowing too much on this third person, even if you say, “I’ll tell you something but you can’t tell anyone else” first.

7. If the other person is trying to bully you

If you’re not also a bully (hopefully), don’t try to communicate with one. Bullies live on back talk and whatever you say will result in more bullying. But they can’t stand silence. You can kill their remarks with kindness by using silence to your advantage. You may want to teach them manners by talking, but it will not work. Mind your own mental health and refuse to deal with bullies.

8. If there is a silent treatment situation

This is one of the oldest psychological punishments in the book. It’s vital to understand the reason for the silent treatment. For some people who have communication problems, it can be used to work things out. But in the hands of an emotional abuser, it becomes a dangerous weapon, especially in close relationships.

Research has shown that the silent treatment triggers the part of the brain that detects physical pain. So the silent treatment actually hurts. After you attempt to talk about your problems and make a peace offering, the silent treatment should be over. If it continues, you should also ignore them regardless how painful it can be. This passive aggressive behavior can’t be solved by single-sided communication. Deprive them from the attention they’re looking for and don’t say a word.

If you both can’t benefit from counselling together, get help for yourself, and leave this toxic relationship behind.

9. If it will hurt someone’s feelings

It’s especially important to avoid commenting on inevitable facts about someone. There is no way to know how much your remarks will damage the other person, considering we’re all triggered by different things. It’s simple, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. You can consider it as a score if you touch a scar, but would you really want to do that? Always consider the future of your relationship with your acquaintances and take a deep breath instead of talking.

When was the last time you ended up in a situation that you could have used these tricks for? Share your experiences with us!

Illustrated by Daniil Shubin for Bright Side