Do you ever struggle to articulate what you really want to say to someone, and end up body swerving that difficult topic?
Maybe you want to ask your boss for a pay rise, or for more recognition for all the work you’ve been doing on a project, or tell someone that you’re really not happy with the way they’re treating you.
Does your mind get deliberately foggy, blurring the lines between the thing your avoiding, and the real truth of what you’d like to communicate?
Yep, this is so common.
Isn’t it a universal truth that we tend to avoid anything that might bring us into confrontation …. so it might feel more comfortable keeping that fog in place.
But at what cost ?
What if you were to come right out and say exactly what you want to that person.
Would they listen?
Would they get angry and shout at you ?
What are you really afraid of?
You might be so used to keeping the peace, being ‘nice’, not upsetting people, that your own needs become buried underneath this well worn habit.
Yet when we’re clear in communicating what we really want, it’s so much easier to get our needs met.
When my daughter was tiny, I used to take her to playgroups,
and I’d sit with the other Mums and watch her play. It always amazed me how easily young children communicate what they want to everyone around them – they take toys when they want, they go where they want, and all without self consciousness, or any thought about the effects they have on others.
They’re clear about their needs, and express them openly (sometimes quite vocally!).
Young children have a purity of will and determination, that makes it so easy for them to get what they want (or tell you very clearly when they haven’t!)
It’s at some later stage, certainly after they start school, that their behaviour starts to become more constricted, as they have to learn the rules about what’s ‘appropriate’ and what isn’t.
But at what stage do we begin to cut off from our essential knowing of what we want and need ?
I believe that as we grow up and have to ‘fit in’ with expectations and the needs of others, we can lose touch with our own essence ….
Yet once you notice that you’ve lost it, you CAN claim it back!
How can you communicate what you really want to say?
Firstly, start with messy – get it all out of your system.
Write it down on paper, or say it out loud if you prefer.
It doesn’t matter if it’s not clear or making sense for now, just let it pour out in any order.
So for example, if you’ve been doing way more than your share of project work, and you’re feeling resentful that you’re not being recognised, write it down and say it like it is:
“I’ve worked long hours and really put myself under a lot of pressure, when other team members weren’t able to complete their part of the project, I jumped in and finished it for them so the project finished on time. I’ve stayed late, I’ve always been available at short notice. I’ve put myself on the line many times. I’m tired and fed up”.
Secondly, let go of the drama and condense your thoughts.
You know the back story, the ‘he said, she said’ drama. Here’s a chance to let go of it all, and find the piece of ‘calm’ to gather your thoughts.
Imagine it all like the debris from a sinking ship …
you’re in the water,
it’s all floating around you,
what are you going to grab onto to save your life?
(Imagine Rose and whatsisname in the film Titanic – they grab a piece of floating debris and hang on)
Imagine you’ve climbed onto this piece of floating debris, and you take a few minutes to catch your breath, (and maybe a few more, just to be sure you’re clear and calm)
Now, take a piece of paper, and
Fill in the blanks in the following statements, in a maximum of two sentences.
I need …
This might take a few attempts, because we’re so not used to thinking in such clear terms. Stick with it!
If you’re finding it hard, then imagine you’re looking outside yourself, as if this is happening to someone else – what would you observe, and how would you respond to the you ‘over there’? (Being supportive to yourself from a different place)
“I want to be recognised for the work I’ve put in over all these years.”
“I need to step back and have a rest from always being first to volunteer my time.”
“I deserve a payrise.”
Thirdly, practise saying those statements out loud.
It might feel really awkward when you first start saying it (and you might not believe it) but that’s ok, just keep saying it over and over.
Eventually the truth of those words will sink down into your body and you’ll feel their meaning.
Try it and see (and let me know how you get on) !
Being clear for yourself about what you’d really like to say is the first step to getting your wants and needs met. Then just like a toddler, it will be easier for you to stake your claim on what you really want, be that a shiny new toy, or a pay rise!
Over To You
I’d love for you to tell me – what makes it easier for you to be clear about what you want or need?
Please share your experiences and insights in the comments below – you never know who might be inspired by your words of wisdom!
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With thanks to Jason Pier for the photo.
Lovely post Ann.
I’ve always been someone who wanted to keep the peace, avoid upsetting anyone, and especially avoid angry confrontation. I realize now that I was afraid of being screamed at or even having someone really angry with me.
Just the other day, I found myself about to really rock the boat in my marriage (over an unpaid bill). I started to state my truth, got scared, and retreated to my little office. But wanting to break out of my old, unhealthy habits, I went out again and said a little more…got scared and retreated again. Finally (after some prayer), I was able to go out, be uncomfortable and afraid, and live through it.
Such a small step, but I felt so proud of myself!
Kamala thanks for sharing your story. Bravo to you for keeping going, even through your discomfort, and breaking that old habit!. They say practice makes perfect, but I think in this sense, just sticking with it (knowing it might be hard) is the way to go. Sending love your way! 🙂
This is right on the button, Anne – toddlers (and animals) can teach us so much.
Avoiding confrontation at all costs and wanting to keep other people happy (so I could feel safe) was one of my biggest limiters in the past, even though I could see it really didn’t serve anyone and only lead to a massive build-up of resentment and frustration on my part.
What made the biggest difference for me was realising that it’s ok for me (and anyone else) to have and express wants and it’s ok if other people don’t like them.
Great photo too :-). Thanks for sharing.
Hi Linda, thanks for sharing. Yes! being able to express wants even if someone else doesn’t like them – that was a huge thing for me too 🙂
What helps me be clear is when I am surrounded by compassionate people who are clear in their communication and not afraid to state their boundaries.
Initially it sometimes rubbed up against me as I thought I was doing things wrong and the people pleaser in me would try and compensate to make things right.
Then over time, I understood better…especially when my very own communication started to be clearer and not to worrying so much about disappointing people..
Time and time again things have worked out more as win:win situations. The tips you give are excellent for this!!
Thanks for sharing Lisa – yes! I like win:win situations! 🙂