When I watched the video of the 70-year-old woman who cussed at guests who attended her birthday party without buying the asoebi for the party in spite of the invite that specifically stated that non asoebi wearing guests will not be allowed into the venue, I marveled at
- The audacity of the people who defied her specific instructions by coming to the party without buying asoebi or sharing one asoebi amongst themselves.
- The courage and resoluteness of the people except for her family members who stayed on at the party after her tantrum. Although I love attending parties, I hate scenes of any kind and doubly so when it casts a bad light on people who I have identified with and causes embarrassment to others, so I am sure I would have immediately got up and left whether or not I was wearing an asoebi.
- The tactlessness of a 70-year-old woman, who at her age didn’t know how best to fight her battles and ended up embarrassing herself and her family members.
A deeper reflection on the matter recalled to my mind a. the famous saying “discretion is the better part of valour”. The quote is from Shakespeare’s play Henry IV Part 1 spoken by the character Falstaff. In context it means that it is often better to be cautious and avoid danger, instead of recklessly charging on to battle and b. the definition of tact by Winston S. Churchill as “the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”
Truth be told that 70-year-old woman lacked discretion and tact and she will not live down the words she uttered as she allowed her emotions to get the better of her and said things in public that she should never have said. If she had played her cards well, it would have been possible for her to get the unwanted guests out of the venue without the backlash that followed her outburst. All she needed to do was to delegate someone- either her party planner or the security personnel to do the dirty work and feign innocence when confronted by the victims.
Her actions validated the school of thought that gracefulness, tact and wisdom are not necessarily virtues of old age. At 70, a person should be mature enough to overlook intended and unintended slights, be able to control their emotions and fight in a way that makes them look like the victim whilst achieving their purpose.
Wisdom is not a preserve of the silver-haired and take it from me, there are ways of getting a message across to someone without being in their faces. There are rules to being tactful and some of them are as follows:
- Think before you speak. What is the long-term effect of what you want to say? Should you even speak at all? How will your words portray you in the eyes of the public?
- Choose your words carefully. Words if used well are weapons and can effectively say more than they suggest. There are ways to insult people that will be discerning immediately to the wise and subsequently to the foolish. Do not use hurtful, patronizing words though sarcasm is a good weapon to use in insulting people. Mind your tone and let your words be conciliatory at the very least. In the example of the 70-year-old woman there was no reason to curse the people. Her direction that the party crashers should leave the party was enough, cursing them was a NoNo and was what turned the tide of public opinion against her.
- Choose your timing carefully, it is said that when it comes to being tactful, having great timing is half of the battle. We should read the mood in the atmosphere before speaking. In the example being looked at, the celebrant could have taken her actions before the guests entered the venue by turning them back before entry especially since she had foreknowledge that some people had vowed to attend the party without complying with her wishes, she could also have made the remark on her entry into the hall before sitting down at the high table.
- Don’t be ruled by your emotions. Most times we allow ourselves to be overcome by our emotions and inevitably cut our nose to spite our faces. Being ruled by our emotions albeit at a single instance has the ability to overshadow the plenty good we have done in the past. Even though the celebrant apologized and gave valid reasons for her utterances, she cannot undo the impression that people who don’t even know her have formed about her because she allowed herself to get overly emotional in her speech.
- Have evidence to back you up. This presupposes that you have an history with the person you are telling off and can rely on that history to justify the decision you are taking and receive the support of all and sundry by your documented rendition of the facts leading to your decision. In the case of the celebrant, she should have drawn the attention of everyone to the invite and the conditions stated therein and simply then asked all those who didn’t comply with those requirements to leave the venue.
- Choose your battles. There are some battles that we will never win not because we are not in the right but because we will be fighting against formidable forces, the timing may be wrong, we do not have the resources to sustain the battle, or it is simply not worth fighting. In those cases, it is wise to let go, look away and regroup for a more strategic battle than lose the war.
I always tell people close to me that even although I don’t fight much, the few times I do it is imperative that I must be adjudged to be in the right. I always try to weigh the consequences of my actions before I take them and that helps me ascertain exactly what I want to achieve before making a fuss. Also, I do all that is required on my part to ensure that I am not found wanting and turn out being the aggressor instead of the victim and lastly I get prepared for any eventualities by creating different scenarios and my responses to them and consulting far and wide before taking action.
Discretion is a function of wisdom, and it is becoming more apparent that very few of us have it.