I think one of the things that give us #TwentySomethings a bad name is that we are (generally) NOT afraid to share our thoughts and opinions.. on anything. It’s not always a bad trait to feel comfortable speaking up; I think that being candid is a good thing, but I have learned – often the hard way – that there is a large value in keeping your mouth shut in numerous situations. We have to know when it’s appropriate to add our opinions, states facts (that we can actually back up with evidence), and when to just nod silently as a way to indicate our engagement. It’s a fine line to walk and as young adults, we are looked at with a much more critical eye than any other age group (IMHO).
See, I grew up around A LOT of adults. I mean, my only sibling was 11 years older than me, and my parents were my best friends, so naturally that means they took me everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. Thawed my parents saw it, if they had to be somewhere, I should be there, too. Unless I had school or some other engagement, I was with them all.the.time. as a young child. My Dad worked for the District Attorney, so going to work with him was not exactly child-appropriate, but I was not like a regular kid, I was a cool kid. (Haha, get it? Mean Girls Mean Girls reference. Any who…) He expected a lot of me when it came to good behavior, and in turn, I delivered that – most of the time.
I specifically remember one instance when my dad was invited to a co-worker’s dinner party; he told them he would love to be there but that I would be in tow. They weren’t exactly thrilled to know a 3 year old would be in attendance, but he basically refused to go unless they agreed to let me go with him. My mom was busy doing something and my parents didn’t really believe in babysitters, so to make a long story short: he got his way and off to the adult dinner party we went.
I was expected to behave VERY well, in all settings. I did not DARE mouth off and disrespect my dad (EVER), so it was pretty much guaranteed that I would be just fine in just about any setting there would be, and he knew that. I went to court rooms with him, main administration offices with him, places that basically seemed like Disneyland to my young and enthralled self. Work with Dad was pretty much the coolest thing that could ever happen to me and I loved being his little #parterincrime (so to speak). With that, I was expected to be attentive to everything around me, but in most situations, that translated to, “sit there and look pretty” (not my father’s words, for the record). That theme translated to a lot situations throughout the rest of my life.
Don’t get me wrong. My parents definitely encouraged me to curate thoughts (first) and contribute to conversations (after), but I was very well aware that there was a time and a place for all that. As a family, we all discussed our days every night at dinner. I was encouraged to speak up in class and participate. I held intelligent conversations with my peers, my mentors and many acquaintances. There was, however, plenty of times when I knew it would be best to not speak at all, and many more times that I just did it anyways. I will never forget the feeling of dread that came over my body the few times my dad caught me talking back to my mom. Let’s just say he did a very good job of making me aware that behavior of that kind would not be tolerated and I can’t thank him enough for that. It made me a respectable young adult and lessoned the times I’ve had to taste my foot in my own mouth.
Communication in necessary. Speaking to add value is important. Nobody thinks the way you do and it is often the case that what you have to say can enlighten someones else’s thoughts and beliefs about the way the world works. I can’t imagine going through life without contributing to a larger conversation, but I know damn well when it is appropriate. I have courage, but I am not brash when commenting on academic conversations. I have always been the (most?) talkative student in class, but I am conscious to only speak when I have value to add to a conversation. It’s important to know the difference between speaking UP and speaking OUT. It’s also important to not waste your words, but by all means (as Drake would say),
“If you have something to say, then say that then.”
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