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?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

6 thoughts on “What Would it Take For You to Say What is on Your Mind?

    1. Thank you for your comment, which I think is incredibly valid. I know that if I said everything that goes through my head, it wouldn’t end well for anyone. Sometimes I think I hold myself back from saying things because I am worried about the other person. Sometimes it is useful to hold back. Sometimes, it is not useful to hold back, and I think then it comes down to how we say it. The aim is to take care of both parties. I really want to thank you for your comment – you led me to reflect on the assumptions that I made in writing this. I wasn’t intending on making assumptions. I guess the point I missed is that sometimes it serves us to speak up and sometimes it doesn’t. If it serves us to speak up, it can be useful to understand what is holding us back. Thank you! I really love that you took the time to comment!

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      1. I thought you brought up some good/valid points. Just sharing in return. But there’s one more thing I’ve noticed, a friend alluding to this. We sometimes don’t speak all on our mind because we may not want to hear the honesty coming back at us. We know this is true from how defensive people become. The concept is, you said this about me, so I’m going to share where you’re even more wrong. Pride.

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      2. I really appreciate your sharing and I love that you are sharing things that I didn’t think of when I wrote the article. You are providing lots to reflect on – thank you so much! Yes, that’s a good point about not wanting to hear something in return. One way I try to cope with hearing feedback that is hard to hear is to consider it as an offer – the person is offering me a thought that occurred to them. I can accept or decline an offer. I don’t have to let it impact me. Not always easy to do, but I find thinking of it as an offer can be helpful. Also, some of it can come down to how we deliver the feedback. My example was quite simple – it was someone sending me a message trying to sell me something as soon as we connected on social media. I thought about why that annoyed me but I also thought about what might be useful for them to take on board for their future marketing. When I wrote back to them, I owned that I had a hangup about being engaged for a sale as soon as someone connected to me. I tried really hard not to make their behaviour wrong – it wasn’t wrong, I just didn’t like it. I told them that I understood we all had to find our audience and sell, but my hangups were not allowing me to engage at this time. He actually thanked me for my honesty. But, if I had approached it differently, or it was a more contentious issue, it could have become a very different conversation. What has come up for me while reflecting on your friend’s comment is that we all have things that are important to us in our interactions and perhaps that “you said something bad so now I will say something worse” thing is a result of those things that are important to us not being met in the interaction. I am not sure. Thanks so much for this – loving the reflection!

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  1. This is a very interesting question. I wonder why someone else’s feelings are more important than mine? I suppose I need to consider how to express my feelings and take into consideration how it would be accepted by someone else. I don’t want to deliberately hurt someone but I would like to hold myself as legitimate. At times I will brew on how I feel which can cause resentment. Thanks Deanne, I will work through your process and see what happens next time I feel the need to hold in what I’m feeling in.

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    1. Thanks, Kate. I mean, sometimes it might be useful to hold back. But there are those times when holding back is not taking care of our own legitimacy. And we don’t have to attack people. We can find ways of saying how we feel that take care of their legitimacy and ours. Looking forward to hearing how it goes for you!

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