When one takes in the world with the bigger picture in mind, that paradigm can make it difficult to pick up on nuances and subtle hints. The boldness of thought overwhelms quiet contemplation. I’m one of those people who often overlooks the fine points and do not see the opportunity to take a hint.
In years long gone by, the social and public arts seemed more considerate and polite. Gauche and crude behavior was strongly frowned upon. Etiquette, although on the surface appears complicated, is at its heart quite simple. Good manners are the social lubricant that makes discourse smoother. Etiquette does not shout, it hints.
When the mental antennae are finely tuned, blatant, harsh frankness is seen as insulting. Our minds slam the door to mutual understanding during the course of giving and receiving harsh criticism and insults. While it seems gratifying and efficient to always exercise boldness when calling out someone’s behavior, utter frankness comes off as verbal assault. Naturally, in extreme instances, boldness in speech and action are necessary. However, the vast majority of our daily interactions are not extreme. It is better to be aware of when our minds are racing through situations. It is good to heed the old saying, “Stop and smell the roses”. The old proverb hints at the importance of nuance.
Give and take are vital in order for effective communication to take place. We cannot make ourselves accurately understood, if we are unable to accurately understand others. When we mentally slow down and become more aware, we notice more than words from our interlocutor. We pick up on small facial tics, gestures, posture, and can more accurately decode the tone of voice.
Have you noticed that some people seem blessed with an inborn ability to pick up on clues and take hints? Such people get along more effectively in society. They are genuinely well-liked by their peers. They are good without having to scream about their acts of charity and alleged kindnesses. I have been blessed by having certain friends and relatives who have finely honed the art of effectively correcting brash behavior. They have gently pulled me aside and pointed out alternatives to my speech and actions. Their hints about their displeasure, make me realize my inattention and inadvertent harm to others.
A good pal once compared life to a television quiz show. We get a higher score and become the champion by paying close attention to the hints. This seems like obvious advice, but it’s important advice in today’s hyperactive, throwaway society. Advertising, news and events jostle for our attention. Our crowded minds have learned to shut down in order to cope. In shutting down, we also block the subtle hints.
When we learn and practice more discerning mental skills, we better understand how and when to filter out the distractions that are clamoring for our attention. We also discover that the truths that affect us most are those that are only half-spoken. When we realize what they allude to, we grasp the entire meaning and retain the lesson. When we pick up on unfavorable hints we can discern whether or not they are helpful. When we hear compliments that flatter our egos, we need to be more mindful of our credulity.
While it behooves us to pay attention to the subtle hints in life, we must also use this skill to detect the insinuations of deceptive people. This ability also warns us when we are guilty of using unskillful, untruthful communication techniques. When we engage high ethical standards, our use and detection of hints is a very valuable skill. We better understand when we should be firm and direct; and when we might utilize the power of hints.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 19th-20th century English poet, Richard Le Gallienne. “All roads indeed lead to Rome, but theirs also is a more mystical destination, some bourne of which no traveler knows the name, some city, they all seem to hint, even more eternal.”