Aug 26, 2009

TRULY SPEAKING: How to Say What You Mean

My website,, will soon be offering a communications e-course titled "Speak Your Truth"—and subtitled "How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean." There are no mind control techniques taught in this course, no tips on influencing others. Instead, the course is about honesty and respect.

But mostly, it's about applying honesty and respect to directness.

In our closest personal relationships, especially, we tend to learn how to dance around certain subjects, specifically those topics that have caused us emotional pain in the past: If you and your roommate or significant other have fought recently over whose turn it is to do the dishes to the point that it escalates into a shouting match, you may find yourself passive-aggressively hinting at how you think it's not your turn this time around. You may be surprised to find that he or she explodes with even more force at just the implication of the topic of dish-washing. What do you do then?

"Coming out with it, already" and saying exactly what's on your mind is the key. But it isn't the first step in the process to resolving this conflict. The first step, in fact, is to look inside yourself and determine how the subject makes you feel. Once you're completely honest with yourself and truly self-aware, then you can begin to accept that the person you wish to address has his or her own feelings over the issue—feelings that may or may not mirror your own.

Here are a couple of techniques to getting in touch with your deeper emotions, to make "saying what you mean" a safe process. Say what you mean to yourself first by:

1. Journaling – If you are already familiar with this process, you need no further instruction. Simply free-write in your journal until you have identified at least two key feelings that you have about the subject at hand. Be sure that the feelings you note are actual sentiments (such as scared, happy, anxious, angry, confused) and not thoughts in disguise (like, "I feel like he's doing this on purpose").

Re-read your entry. If you notice thoughts that you've written, make sure to attach a sentiment to them, i.e., "I feel like he's doing this on purpose—and that makes me resentful."

2. Self-Talk – Forget the old stereotype that talking to yourself is crazy. Sometimes, talking to yourself can keep you sane! Stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself, "How do I feel when I think about the dishes?" and then describe first the physical sensations you feel (sweaty palms, upset stomach, racing heart, etc.), followed by your emotions (nervous, irritated, hostile). Break it down into one sentence, such as, "When she doesn't wash the dishes she's used, I feel very angry." It's okay to use modifiers (like very or somewhat), because this helps you measure the feeling you have and be even more honest with yourself.

Affirmations are another form of self-talk that can help you keep your cool before entering into a confrontation. For example, if you find that you're afraid to stand up for yourself, but are harboring a resentment that's eating away at you inside, you might consider bolstering yourself with an affirmation prior to addressing the conflict. A good, affirmative sentence in this case would be, "I am confident that I can be honest about my feelings."

The next step to resolving the conflict is to have a conversation with the other person about your Dish War. For this step, listening is key. You can't listen to anyone else, however, until you have first listened to yourself and your own needs.

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2009

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