Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships 15

In my latest reading of The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, by Temple Grandin and Sean Barron, I learned about being diplomatic and not always blurting out what I think.
Something on page 209 stood out to me:

"In our eagerness for our children to be socially engaged, we encourage them to talk, we reinforce them when they respond, so they get in the habit of offering their opinions without being asked----and we delight in their social participation. But not all situations warrant a verbal comment; it's an unwritten rule in certain social relationship settings, both personal and professional, that keeping silent is preferable over offering an unsolicited opinion."

I do not think that I should wait to be asked for my opinion before I offer it. If I were to do that, I'd probably never say anything, since a lot of people like to hear themselves talk and do not ask others for others' opinions. Temple herself does not think that she should always be silent, for she talks about expressing disagreement (albeit tactful disagreement) on the floor of a conference. But I agree that there are many times when I should just remain silent----when people do not need to hear my opinion.

Temple also offers tips on how to interact with professionals. When they ask her what she thought about their presentation, and she does not like it, she first identifies something positive about it, then she offers suggestions for improvement. I am not exactly in a position to suggest areas where my academic colleagues can improve, for what do I know? But I often blurt out to fellow academics where I disagree with them at the outset, and that can put them on the defensive. I'd probably do better to commend their presentation, and then to ask a question about it (albeit not in a manner that puts them on the defensive).

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