This week, I was annoyed about receiving a random email. It wasn’t the sender’s fault. It was my frame of mind. I chose not to respond. This worked well until the person followed up with me. They clearly wanted a reply. I wanted them to stop sending emails.
I contemplated what to say.
“You can’t say that,” the voice inside my head admonished.
But why not? It was how I felt! Why couldn’t I say what I was thinking?
I think the reason for defaulting to silence is past learning. As children, how often were we told not to say what was on our mind? I can remember as a child, going to someone’s house for dinner and my mum saying “If you don’t like the food, say nothing and eat it. Do not tell them you don’t like it. It will hurt their feelings.” We learned to keep our judgments of others to ourselves, reinforced by the mantra “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing”. Now, I am well over 40. I know what I want from life. Yet, I still keep my mouth shut.
As I noticed this avoidance behaviour, I asked myself what I wanted to say. That was easy. I wanted to tell the person why I their email was annoying.
I wondered why I wanted to tell the person about the impact of their email. Did it even matter? It occurred to me that, yes, it mattered. It was legitimate that I was annoyed at the email. It was important to take care of my legitimacy. To do that, speaking up was essential. I wanted the person to understand why I did not respond, and I wanted them to stop emailing me.
My next question for myself was “Why the avoidance behaviour?” Easy. I didn’t want to upset the person. My opinion of the email related to my personal biases, not the individual. I didn’t want them to suffer because of my annoyance at their email. I wanted them to understand they were legitimate as well.
I planned how to tell the individual what I was thinking. Then I approached the individual. I respectfully spoke my mind, trying my best to take care of the other person’s legitimacy.
The person received my feedback well. They even thanked me for it. I felt accomplished.
This leads to the question: What would it take to own how you are feeling and say what is on your mind?