Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Truth...From Bambi

So here's the thing. Mean people get under my skin. I think we can all learn a lot if we'd just be quiet and listen. So here's some things I constantly tell myself when someone is talking and I don't agree with the words that are coming out of their mouth. Or what they've typed on their blog. Or Facebook. Or whatever.

  • You are not always right.
  • There are at least five sides to every story.
  • Consider their point of view.
  • What can you learn from what they're saying?
  • They're entitled to their own opinion. Just listen, don't speak. And certainly don't interrupt.

And most of all: Kindness is king.

I tell my students at the beginning of every year that it's their choices that define who they are. The speech goes something like this: "If you want people to think you're a nice person, you must CHOOSE to act nice. Say nice things. If you want people to think you're a hard worker, you must CHOOSE to work hard. If you want people to think you're helpful, you must CHOOSE to help them. If you want people to think you're a good listener, you must CHOOSE to listen. On the other hand, if you act mean, say mean things, people will think you're mean."

Pretty simple, right? Kids get it. I rarely have any problems, and if I do, I simply ask the student what other people might be able to decide about them based on their choices. Would they be able to say you're a good friend when you spread rumors? Would they be able to say you're nice when you're rolling your eyes at their shoes/shirt/hair style?

And so, I take my lesson from Bambi each and every day. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

What about you? Do you have to mentally coach yourself the way I do? Do you believe your choices define who you are?


Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Yes, I believe my choices help to define who I am. This post is something I don't think people think about enough.

Good stuff.
~ Wendy

Scott said...

Every action has a reaction - a basic theory. A stone thrown into a pond, causes ripples on the surface, but things also happen below the surface. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Treat people how you want to be treated! I think that's a good mantra. I try to treat people the way I want to be treated. I try. I don't always suceed. Sometimes, people just get on my last ever-loving nerve and I . . . well, I've been known to snap! Yes, SNAP!

Great words of advice. I do have to mentally coach myself at times. Oh, and I have to ingore the little voice in my mind going 'shut up, please make him/her shut up, please, he/she is getting on my last nerve, oh, why won't he/she just shut up, omg i think my head might explode'. Okay, it's never that bad. I normally listen, nod my head, and try to understand their POV. Sometimes, silence is golden.


Athena's Little Helper said...

There's a saying I use on myself almost every day: "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt." It's been attributed to Abe Lincoln and Mark Twain, so I'm not sure who really said it. I'm normally a polite person, but when I get really angry my IQ seems to drop about fifty points and I'm likely to shout things that in no way help the situation. I've learned to close my eyes and repeat the saying. It saves me from saying things I'll regret later.

Scott said...

Oops, meant to also add . . . every choice I make shapes/defines me as a person. Even though I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason, even if I can't understand that reason right away, the choices I make still define me.


Shelli said...

i just tell myself they are crazy and I am perfect :)

quixotic said...

Sometimes it is a very hard choice, to be a nice person, but I agree, it is a choice we have to make ourselves. I like your rules about listening and 5 sides to every opinion.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

The world would be a better place if everyone at least tried to put themselves in another's shoes. Of course, if the other person is being a jerk it's hard not to have your chain yanked. I love what Athena's Little Helper said about IQ dropping when anger takes over. I always regret stuff said in anger, even if I'm absolutely, 100 percent positive I'm right. People hear better when a conversation is calm and rational, rather than rabid.
That you teach this to your students is huge. It can make their lives and those around them tons better, and who can ask for more than that?

Tess said...

great reminders, Elana. I sometimes get that foot-in-mouth disease where I forget to think before I speak. *sigh* I am a work in progress...

Lisa said...

Kids really are smarter than some adults. They can understand such a simple concept! =)

WindyA said...

It just goes to show how people grow up and overcomplicate everything. Kids get it because they don't try to complicate what you're saying. They just take it as it is.

T. Anne said...

Great advice. Bambi knows a thing or two...

Judith Mercado said...

I wish I'd had a teacher like you way back. It would have saved me from some terrible choices. Now I view every choice as one between love and hate, and that works pretty well ... when I can remember I have a choice.

Michelle McLean said...

great advice :) I had an incident in high school, when I let something horrible slip out of my mouth to a friend. She had been horrible to me all year, calling me names, etc, but what I said was no excuse. So, since then, I've tried really hard to think about what is coming out of mouth before it gets there. And if I don't have anything nice to say, I don't say it :) I may think it, I may go home, call a good friend, and tell it to her just to get it out of my system, but I am very aware now of not saying or doing anything I'm going to regret later, no matter how I'm feeling at the moment.

Jaime Theler said...

I mostly suffer from "that came out wrong and not at all how I intended it"-itis. Needless to say I do a lot of apologizing and explaining myself. *sigh* But I'm getting better!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

i totally believe this. in fact, you just described cognitive therapy in a nutshell. :)

Where Romance Meets Therapy

Carolyn V. said...

I agree with you. I find myself biting my tongue at times to keep from telling someone they are wrong (I would never do that *grimacing smile on face* never).

Plus sometimes we are too quick to judge and it's embarrassing when we find out we were wrong all along. =) Awesome post!

Teri said...

My what a wise little cartoon character! It's something I tell my kids all the time, and need to remember to be just the same. I generally don't say things to people, I'm far too busy people pleasing to cause contention, but I generally am saying it in my head and to my husband later. What my kids read, is my attitude and generally hear my comments later. Not the best example. Thumper was right! Thanks for the reminder!

ElanaJ said...

Thanks for weighing in guys. I think so many people forget that they have the power to choose what they want people to think about them. I appreciate the affirmation!!

Suzanne said...

All good things are hard work.

It is easy to be a lazy, mean person. It is almost, dare I say, natural... so we have to fight against it.

Good post!

Solvang Sherrie said...

Absolutely! We choose who we are and who we are going to be each and every day.

Nisa said...

Every word of this is true. I love that you give your kids this talk at the beginning of the year. I hope I'm doing a good job teaching these things to my kids (and myself)! Can I just cut and paste this onto my own blog? lol J/K

Lisa and Laura said...

Ugh, I'm working on the whole "nice" thing. I tend to have lots of patience for people that I like and zero patience for people who annoy the snot out of me. And I'm definitely not always a nice person. But I do try...

This is a good reminder, Elana. We have a choice every single day to decide what kind of person we're going to be. Apparently, today I decided to be crabby. Oops.

Eric said...

Great post, Elana. To quote a movie (that I liked alot):

"There are no victims in this classroom!"

I live by this same philosophy, always teaching my sons to be responsible for their choices and actions.

Travis Erwin said...

That is a very nice policy but sometimes it sure is hard to keep my mouth shut.

Jamie D. said...

I think there are times when keeping my mouth shut is a grand idea. Lots of them, actually. And for the most part, I do.

I also think there are times that keeping my mouth shut is detrimental even when the words are negative - for there to be trust and understanding between people, there must be some sort of communication. I'd rather hear someone say they disagree with me in a respectful manner than not to know what they think. I'm not a "hold back the truth if it hurts" sort of person...I'm a "get it all out in the open so it can heal" sort. The key is to do it in a respectful, calm, non-confrontational manner. If I can't do that, then I do keep my mouth shut.

And yes, our choices define who we are - absolutely. I want people to think that I am always honest, and always transparent - thus, I don't always keep my mouth shut. But I am respectful & calm when speaking.

Ryan said...

I guess I'm a little bit different here. I have a little pink pill that makes me pretty apathetic to what other people say, but I have a tendencie to be really argumentative and generally unpleasant without it.

Liza said...

Wish I had you as a teacher growing up.

christine said...

I agree that it is our choices that define us.

I would add that making a mistake (like yelling at someone for example) is just that - a mistake,a given for all of humanity.

It is what we do with that mistake that defines WHO we are as people. When we seek reconcilliation for our actions, admit our mistakes and strive to amend the mistake, we have demonstrated something very powerful - and positive - about our nature.

Okay, enough of the soap box!!!

Luv ya!

MG Higgins said...

I have to remind myself ALL the time. One of my nicknames growing up was "Frank" and I'm not a boy and my name isn't Frances.

Jessica said...

Definitely! What a great post. You sound like an excellent teacher too.

L.T. Elliot said...

It's exactly this concept that governs my life. Choice. Choice is everything to me. I can choose who I will be and how I view the world.

As for mean people, I'd totally own that bumper sticker "Mean people suck" if I didn't worry about hurting people's feelings.

B.J. Anderson said...

Totally and completely agree. That was a very good post. Karma.

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