You need to get good at biting your tongue if you have a teenager, spouse/partner or boss. Don’t meddle in things that don’t concern you or that aren’t in your span of control. In the case of a teenager, you have NO span of control; in the case of the partner or boss, only as it is bestowed upon you. I’m not sure if it’s a gender thing but I have a real hard time staying out of what does not concern me. I need to back off and bite my tongue.
Giving your opinion on your children’s clothing, dating or music preferences is a losing proposition. You will not gain any trust or confidence if you are criticizing your teenager’s latest clothing ensemble or iTunes download. The Romeo and Juliet effect is alive and well. The more you say that you don’t like “skinny jeans” or gages or head banging music (I don’t even know what the real name is…but it’s awful), the more your children will embrace it. You strengthen their ties to whatever is the object of your disgust.
It’s not easy but there are ways to bite your tongue (without literally biting your tongue):
1. Divest. Don’t invest your ego and the judgment thereof into your offspring, friends and co-workers. Getting wrapped up in “what will the neighbors say?” is a losing proposition. I can remember my son waiting for the elementary school bus at the top of the driveway, wearing sandals and no jacket on a cold windy day practicing his karate moves. I had to let go. The neighbors still loved him and, as far as I know, didn’t call child protective services.
2. Suspend. Quit judging by your own standards. Just because I get up at 5:30 AM to go for a run doesn’t mean my spouse will or wants to or will dare to. Suspend judgment. We all make our own path. If your assistant wants to wear THOSE earrings with THAT dress, so be it. If your boss wants to move a meeting because she’s got a hair appointment, so be it. Let the judgment go.
3. Empathy. Stand in their shoes. There was a time when high top chucks were in style. I owned a pair or two of bell bottoms. My daughter came home from a hiking trip with a swath of bright red hair. I remember dying my hair blue/black at age 20 testing my independence. I bit my tongue and gave her a hug.
4. Silence. Speak when spoken to. Think whatever you are thinking, just don’t say it out loud. If no one asked your opinion, don’t give it. It’s amazing how powerful silence can be. If they do, be judicious with your comments. As Thumper’s Mom said “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.
5. Positive. Look for the good in all. Reinforce the positive. You may not like most of the presentation your friend gave at the conference but you really liked the slides. Compliment the slides. Your son hasn’t shaved in two months but he got a haircut last week? Compliment the haircut. Find the good and reinforce.
Suspending judgment can be liberating. Worrying about what someone will think about this or that can weigh you down. Don’t be responsible for carrying the burden. Let go. Bite your tongue and revel in the freedom.