Say what you mean

cat in the hat say what you meanWhy can’t people just say what they mean?

Being clear and honest would solve so many problems.

Relationships would be stronger because we would forge stronger connections from shared understanding.

There would be less uncertainty and confusion in the world.

We would make less mistakes.

We would save precious time from trying to interpret what the other person is saying or what they want.

Saying what we mean could also help advance our interests.

Look at Donald Trump. One of the key reasons he has gotten this far in the U.S. presidential race is because he says what he means. If Hillary Clinton stopped playing the political game, and just once, came out and blasted him, and said what she really felt, I wonder if she would see a spike in the polls in her favour.

Our reluctance to say what we mean is even more of an epidemic at work.

There are some professions where I swear they actually train you to speak in euphemisms and jargon. It drives me crazy.

Last week I got an email from a colleague. The first line was, “Here is the PPT that I presented to the RLT based on the work that the INV team did.”

Now, as it turns out, I actually understood the email because sadly, I’ve worked there long enough that half of these terms are second nature to me. But god help any new person in the organization, or someone who isn’t exposed to jargon and acronyms as much as I am.

Saying what you mean is even more important for some people, for instance, people with autism.

Because Grace has a tendency to interpret everything I say literally, I’ve learned to be as specific as possible in my language. For instance if I said, “I don’t care if you want to do X, you have to get your homework done first” or whatever the issue we were discussing, she would literally interpret it that I didn’t care about her. Having an autistic child makes you think about your language choice very carefully.

Of course, there are times, when it is better to not say what you mean. Here are some golden rules of communication to keep in mind:

  1. Think before you speak.
  2. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  3. Always think about whether your words could be interpreted the wrong way or how they would make the person feel.

As Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to say what you mean, keeping in mind the golden rules. Share a comment. Why do you think people don’t say what they mean?

7 thoughts on “Say what you mean

  1. I agree with your “Golden Rules”, even though those behaviors reflect ideals more than normal behavior. It would be an improvement if people conformed more closely to any of them. I’m frustrated by my own failures to make that happen. I’m 62, and feel as if I’ve only made minimal improvements in the effectiveness of my communications since my teen years. So now I’m just trying to do more, take more correct actions, and talk less in general. Without significant self-awareness and empathy, those rules are out of reach. You have to know what you mean BEFORE you can say it, and much of what we “mean” is ugly, so we don’t even admit it to ourselves honestly.

    I think it’s quite common for people to speak before their thoughts reflect content formed by reflection or contemplation, to be impatient to express themselves. At that moment, they don’t know what they “mean”, only what emotions they are experiencing.

    I also think most verbal messaging is either negative or competitive in intent. You hardly need words with those you love and know best, by comparison with those who you have to negotiate with, or explain something unfamiliar to.

    That’s my theory behind the Trump effect. The part of what he means that he SAYS, is mostly disparaging (We’re doomed, those in other countries hate and make fun of us, our leaders are all liars who should be in jail, they’ve messed up everything, our system is rigged, no one acts except in their own interest, and no one knows the way out of this hole except me.) But what it MEANS is, “I’m scared. I know you don’t like me. Everyone wants to cheat me out of the things I have. When I’m President, you’ll be sorry!”

    He speaks like an undisciplined, resentful teenager, and listeners who feel unjustly swindled out of (what they perceive to be) their deserved share of material wealth and power think they’ve been fools for being manipulated into having to speak (and act) with restraint.

    1. Lots to chew on here Mikey–I’m Canadian so it’s fascinating to us to see the views on Trump. Thanks for sharing yours. As for the golden rule, I completely agree. I think the rules are idealistic and aspirational, but that’s a good thing. Yes, we’re human. That means at times we won’t be pure of heart or always think, do or say the right things and we may even have feelings of jealousy, dislike or wanting to hurt others. But if we can think before we speak, if we consciously try to do the right thing we will all be better and happier for it. As I’ve grown older, I find myself thinking one thing, but consciously forcing myself to not say anything or share it, because it will do no good. It’s a constant struggle, but one we have to make if we want to be better human beings and have a kinder world. Thanks for being so open and sharing.

  2. Pingback: Top Ten Happy Acts of 2016 | Happy Act

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