Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

Do you say what you mean and mean what you say?  Chances are, the answer is no.  It’s quite hard to be in 100% integrity and say only what you mean and mean what you say.  Plus, we think it sounds impolite.  I’m not referring to outright lies – that’s another post to come – I’m talking about using language that is unclear, muddy, vague, and dis-empowering.

I used to use “nice” language – to try to not hurt people’s feelings, and to avoid being uncomfortably direct or – god forbid – actually say what I want.  And in so doing, I was giving my power away to other people.  And then I would get irritated or pissed off or annoyed.  I thought I was irritated with the other person.  But really, I was annoyed and angry with myself for not having the courage to just speak the truth.

Do you say things like:

“I can’t” or “you can’t”

“I shouldn’t” or “you shouldn’t”

“I have to” or “You have to”

“I must” or “You must”

These phrases aren’t almost always not true.  What you typically mean (and may want to try saying) are some version of:

“I don’t want to”

“I am choosing not to”

“I want”

“I do not want”

So “I can’t quit my job” becomes “I am choosing not to quit my job.”

“You have to visit me” becomes “I want you to visit me.”

“You should text me if you’re going to be late” becomes “I want you to text me if you’re going to be late.”

There is always choice involved, in any action or inaction.  There is no “have to” or “can’t.”  I know, you’re probably rolling you’re eyes right now … but it’s generally true.  You almost always have a choice.  (Okay, I will grant exemptions for those of you in prison or being held up at gun-point!)  Start taking responsibility for your choices and use language that reflects this.  The results are pretty amazing!

I know it sounds impolite to say “No thank you, I don’t want to come” rather than “No thank you, I can’t come.”  Maybe we can start to change this?  Even if you choose not to say this, at least think it in your head.  Try to catch yourself when you are saying “can’t” or “have to.”  Whose voice is that in your head?  Who says you “have to” or “can’t” or “must” or “should”?  Your mom or dad?  Your husband or wife?  Your kids?  Your teacher?  Your boss?  What do YOU think?  What do you want?  Say that instead.  Take your power back.  Stop giving your power away.

To be honest, this is very much a work in progress for me.  But I am getting better.  And as my language gets more honest, more clear, and direct, so too does my life.

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