Many women don’t like to rock the boat. They don’t like to say anything that may cause offence, or that may be misconstrued. It is a common trap for People Pleasers. Worried about saying it wrong, they get trapped in an endless cycle of rephrasing, anxious how it will be taken. So they end up not saying anything. Avoiding it. And that’s a huge shame.
Some people are more assertive. They confidently put their thoughts out there, and they say exactly what they mean. Sometimes they combine their assertiveness with rudeness. And you don’t want to be like that, you don’t like conflict, so you stop being assertive altogether, in case you are seen as rude.
It is otherwise known as ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’, you don’t want to be seen as rude, so you stop being assertive.
We are taught as kids not to hurt people’s feelings. That white lies or sugar-coatings can be necessary to soften the delivery of firm words. We discourage kids from ‘talking back’. We teach them to dance around the truth. Sometimes we even encourage niceness over truth. Its all encouraging a communication style which is very passive and cautious.
And it means that some things don’t get said.
If you worry about how it will be received, and let this dominate your thinking, you end up not speaking at all. This is not healthy, it means you are not contributing to that relationship properly. Your act of filtering, rather than strengthening the relationship and saving their feelings, is actually damaging the relationship because good communication requires at 2 people speaking up.
If you are finding yourself holding back, and not speaking up, you have to stop. Its not doing you any favours. The real you is not being expressed in the world, and that’s a terrible shame.
We expect these conversations to be difficult. And difficult conversations are tough and unpleasant. But they don’t have to be. Shifting your stance from “I’m about to go into a difficult conversation” to “I’m about to share some truths, kindly” is helpful.
You can’t control how someone reacts to what you say, their feelings are not your responsibility. How they react is their choice. But that doesn’t give you licence to be rude. And delivering a truth, kindly, compassionately and fairly is always going to be received better than delivering that truth aggressively. Be responsible in your delivery, but don’t take responsibility for their reactions.
You need to distinguish between thinking about what you are going to say, from how you say it. Effort should go into the latter, but you need an unwavering commitment to speaking up, and saying what you need to say.
Thinking about how you speak is a valuable exercise.
You don’t want to be overly critical, offensive, demanding. You don’t want to personalise it too much. You don’t want to be aggressive or demeaning. The only thing you will get back is defensiveness. And that will trigger hostility, or annoyance, or disengagement.
And you definitely don’t want to waffle, skirt around the issue, alluding to it, and hoping they catch on. Because you will only frustrate them.
But you can speak firmly and kindly, clearly and succinctly. Pointing out the facts, not embellishing them too much. Your tone can be neutral and accommodating.
Keep in mind you can be kind and assertive.
- First, ask does this need to be said? If you are protecting a boundary, it needs to be said. If you are just wanting to criticise someone, then maybe its not needed.
- Say less. Get it down to 30 words
- Get into the right mood first. If you are angry, hold off a bit. You want to be calm, kind and fair.
- Limit yourself to one placating addition. Only one thing added to soften it. Don’t keep adding ‘sorry’ and ‘maybe’ and ‘perhaps’ too many times. It sounds weak.
- Stick to the facts, don’t embellish it
- Check your own assumptions, do the reality check, am I seeing this accurately?
- Try to see it from their viewpoint
- Pick your timing. If there is too much else going on, delay it a bit, but don’t drop it. Circle back later.
- If you are really struggling to be heard, write it down. Some people take things in better by reading, rather than listening.
If you are tired and your partner does something that annoys you, it can be tempting to gloss over it, as you can’t be bothered getting in to an argument. But then they continue doing it (and why wouldn’t they?) and you start getting resentful. Something should have been said the first time.
When the aggressive colleague at work criticises your team, and finishes it with “I’m joking”, something needs to be said.
When you try to talk to your manager at work about someone’s inappropriate behaviour, they might sigh and roll their eyes. Letting you know they don’t want to be having this conversation. It is tempting to stop. But that’s not serving anybody.
“I can see you are a bit uncomfortable with this conversation. Are you uncomfortable with what they did? Or are you uncomfortable with me bringing it up?”
Contribute to the conversation and share your thoughts.
Stop silencing yourself.