If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all

Listening to preconceived ideas because of someone else’ judgement or unkind words of another person will not help - JAGDESH SINGH

By Jagdesh Singh | OPINION |

My dear mother used to say this to me when I was at the age where I constantly felt the world was against me. Teenage angst and all that. I had things to say about almost anybody, and mostly non complimentary words.

And the narrative over this saying is mostly around the “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you” construct. As in, what goes round, comes around. Or Karma is a bitch, etc. That’s how I understood it then, and that’s how I understand it today.

But I’ve come to realise that this saying has far wider implications than just being worried about the boomerang effect of negative words.

I’ve recently been assigned a partner of sorts in a volunteer project. This person is fairly younger than me, pretty ambitious and has a certain style of work that reflects his or her age and ambitions. Strong drive. Vocal and aggressive when pursuing progress of work.

I did some digging to get to know this person before, curiosity being a trait that I’m fairly proud of myself. It wasn’t impossible to get the information I wanted because an old acquaintance of mine had previous experience with this person.

I should’ve known better, but the assessment of my acquaintance, without any substantial proof apart from trusting an old friend, was almost a damning indictment.

“Careful. This person hides things and keeps you in the dark.”

I told myself that I’ll take it with a pinch of salt, reminding myself to being fair and all. Soon, we started working very closely, meeting each other and planning our strategies. There was an evident clash of personalities, just like a self fulfilling prophecy. Arguments flared up here and there but misunderstandings were ironed out, sooner than later. We both had the project’s success as our aligned priority.

I assessed my behaviour, questioning myself if maybe I was partly to be blamed for a few of these misunderstandings. Nay, even wholly answerable to them, perhaps?

It then dawned upon me that the words for my old friend had unraveled themselves, and fulfilled the prophecy. Even though I didn’t want to admit it, I now realise that those words contributed to my defence mechanism, fortified my impression of this person on very dodgy foundations. In other words, I had already judged the person before even giving the person a chance to build a relationship. The bridge we were walking on were wobbly from the beginning.

What if I didn’t know anything about this person? Or if I had only known good things about this person?

Perhaps I would’ve come to the same judgment over time, and just learn to accept this person as he or she is. But I think the journey to get there wouldn’t have been as painful as it has been, I’m sure.

So, those words had an effect to a third person like me, who had made life tougher than it should be when building a working relationship that needs to work over the next 2 or 3 years. The same would apply for a relationship when doing volunteering work, or even being in a long lasting romantic relationship.

We all have these relationships one way or another. Listening to preconceived ideas because of someone else’ judgement or unkind words of another person will not help. Undoing something you’ve listened to is very hard. So, it would be easiest if the person speaking says only good words.

So, you see, it’s not just about you and your words coming back to haunt you. It’s more of a domino effect where the listener would also suffer fools.

I guess Mom and the wise old people knew what they were talking about.


Jagdesh Singh, a Kuala Lumpur-based executive with a US multinational company, is a father of three girls who are as opinionated as their mother

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.



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