How often have you thought back on a conversation that you had and wished you said something that was really on your mind? Haven’t we all been in a discussion when we held our tongues or didn’t express our true feelings because we didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, or we were concerned with how that other person would view us? So what happens inside of us when we hold back? Well, we rethink that conversation, shake our heads and regret what wasn’t said. Time goes on and when our needs aren’t met or our intentions are misunderstood, we feel like kicking ourselves because we never communicated what we really should have. If we’re really prone to a certain mentality, then we can often feel like a “victim” – as though no one “understands” us. Well, that’s our own fault and we ARE a victim of our OWN inability to effectively communicate our needs and desires. The ability to clearly and concisely say what you want and need is a skill that may take some people a lifetime to acquire. For others, it comes more naturally. Regardless of how it comes to you, what matters is that it is an essential communication skill that will greatly reduce your stress factor. It’s not really that difficult if you think about it: SIMPLY SAY EXACTLY WHAT IS ON YOUR MIND.
I’m a native New Yorker who has lived in the south for many years. One of my biggest challenges that I faced when I first relocated to the south was the ability to “tone it down.” I have been told numerous times by former co-workers and supervisors that I have a very straight forward and direct demeanor about me. Many years ago during a performance evaluation, my boss told me that although I was efficient, professional and proficient at my job, I needed to have a little bit more “fluff” in my mannerism. Surprisingly, I wasn’t offended by his remark. Instead, I was very amused and even laughed out loud during the evaluation. I asked him what he meant, although I already knew. He seemed a little uncomfortable but proceeded to tell me that I was “rough around the edges when dealing with clients.” I was in the process of becoming a “real grown up” at that time and decided to take his comment as constructive criticism and listen to what he had to say. I chose not to become defensive and confrontational and left the evaluation with a resolve to try be “fluffier.” It went well for a while as I made a conscious effort to smile more, have more diplomacy and tact when dealing with our clients. During this time, I appeased more people, I accommodated even some of the most unreasonable expectations and I remained silent at speculation when I wanted to blurt out the truth. My newfound “fluff” was a bit more challenging than I thought it would be. I had to learn patience and tolerance for nonsense. That wasn’t easy!
The “real” Ava wasn’t as diplomatic as some of my other co-workers. The real Ava was outspoken, direct, assertive and bold. Maybe not the most desired qualities for an employee, but certainly for a leader. The real Ava has never had a lot of “fluff” (except in the areas around my midsection). While I never won “Employee of the Month” on my job, I did win the respect, if not always the approval, of my peers and bosses. Ironically, whenever there was a difficult or challenging client or situation to contend with, my boss and co workers would eagerly refer them to me because they knew I could handle them. That was a long time ago and I’m happy to say that tolerance and patience have found a place in me simply because I’ve lived long enough – that is a true blessing. Even in my marriage, my ex husband was the ultimate diplomat. He was the “good cop” and I was the “bad cop.” Anytime a situation arose that required tactful, diplomatic dealings, he’d handle it. However, when situations arrived that required a more direct and hard approach, I was the designated “enforcer.” We knew our roles and we were quite a team in that respect. It worked well for us.
In the years since then, I have learned a great many things. First thing: I don’t ALWAYS have to say what’s on my mind in EVERY instance. That has mainly come with age and wisdom. There are times when a situation, or even a person, is not worthy of your words, time or energy. It is mature discernment that will determine this. I have also realized that if I am not crystal clear about my needs and wants, then neither is the person to whom I’m communicating with. I have decided that whenever possible, if I don’t want to do something, I don’t do it. Period. I have given myself the precious gift of learning to say “NO.” And I am seriously working on learning to say no WITHOUT explaining why. As an introvert, that is not too difficult for me to accomplish. But as a writer and a natural communicator, it’s a little more challenging.
I’m less concerned with what others think about me and more concerned about what I think about myself. I’ve never had the “poor pitiful Pearl” mentality inclination, so I’m not willing to sit passively and feel sorry for myself because I’m “misunderstood” or because I didn’t get what I wanted. No, if I didn’t get what I wanted, there are only two reasons why: Because it wasn’t meant for me OR because I didn’t ask for it. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed! I don’t have the time or the desire to leave you wondering about what I meant during a discussion – you will know with no uncertainty.
A few things that I have learned and apply to my daily life:
- Be crystal clear when communicating your needs
- Ask for what you want! You may not get it, but ask anyway! If You don’t ask, the answer will ALWAYS be NO.
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO HEAR THE WORD “NO” – it’s just an opportunity to ask again or ask someone else.
- If you WANT to do it, then do it. If you don’t, then don’t (and don’t feel guilty about NOT doing it!)
- If you say you’re going to do it, DO IT!
- If you say yes and then have to say no, let the person know RIGHT AWAY – apologize and then move on. (You may have some ‘splainin’ to do – depending on the situation and the people/person involved. That’s okay. Some times it’s worth it!
- If you meet someone who is interested in you romantically, but the feeling isn’t mutual, LET THEM KNOW. Do not…I repeat, DO NOT waste their time or yours by giving them ambiguous and misleading signals. In other words, don’t play games…it shows a lack of maturity and respect.
- In romantic relationships, tell your man or your woman what you need and what you want! When he/she asks what’s wrong, tell them! Don’t take the passive aggressive way out when he/she asks what’s wrong by saying “Nothing’s wrong,” when you’re angry or hurt inside. That serves no one and all you’re doing is becoming more frustrated.
- Life is too short to say anything other than what you REALLY feel. Anything less is a waste of time.
Now, I will probably never win any popularity contests because I’m certainly not the most accommodating or diplomatic person you’d ever meet, but that’s more than okay by me. But the truth is that you will NEVER walk away wondering what I meant because, like it or not, you’ll know with crystal clear certainty – and I can surely live with that!