birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Politics of the Impolitic

Like the storied boy who called out the naked emperor, I have often been guilty of speaking what one is not supposed to say. Like Dennis the Menace, I repeat Dad’s negative about the boss as soon as he walks in, without knowing anything of the consequences.

I must say, quickly, I have gotten so much better throughout adulthood. I now might almost call myself ‘politic’! And, boy, was that a hard-won skill and practice.

Now, it is likely that what I want to blurt out is thought out and philosophical. And, it is often not what people want to hear.

I guess it’s a good thing that I became a psychologist—a consultant of sorts—who gets paid to say what is difficult, unpopular, and hard to hear. People pay me to tell them about what they do “wrong”—and also what they do right that is NOT politic. Ironic, that?

It is part of my job to say things, at the right time and in the right way, about how people behave that is causing them one kind of difficulty or another. I MUST talk about the things that often the social rules of polite society teach us to ignore or sidestep or actively retreat from. It makes me, at some point in almost every therapy, not a nice person; or, at least, it makes me a person who must say not-nice things in the nicest possible way, but with enough punch to get the person’s attention to and on the missteps that are habitually part of their lives.

It is, at times, like saying, “You have spinach in your teeth” to a person who has no mirror or toothpick, or even a fingernail, and a pretty insensitive tongue. I suppose that’s why it’s so important to build trust first, and for a long while.

I know it is why it is SO important, to tend first to one’s own blindness, one’s own spinach-filled teeth. I mean why would anyone believe me about their bad habits if all my own are unknown and on full display?


What is There to Tell?