Saying what we mean and asking for what we want are, at the same time, very important habits to cultivate and skills that are rarely taught in schools, homes, or workplaces.
But the mind-readers among us are few and far between so it absolutely behooves us to stretch ourselves in these specific ways.
You'll improve your relationships: Poor communication often causes unnecessary distress, can diminish credibility, and cause a lack of trust in both personal and professional relationships. People prefer honesty, even if you’re not telling them what they want to hear. Remind yourself there’s nothing you can’t say and no one you can’t say it to.
You'll improve your chances of being understood: All of us deep down, want to be truly understood by other people. Yet without saying exactly what you mean, you risk being perpetually misinterpreted. How many times have you looked at someone you know well and thought, “if you really knew me, you wouldn’t have said/done that!”? But think about it - how are they expected to know if you never say out loud what’s actually going on in your head? By getting your real thoughts out in the open, you may not always be as nice, but you’ll be much more real - and that’s surprisingly appreciated by others and rewarding for yourself.
You'll feel proud of yourself: Speaking out, particularly on important subjects, can feel like a weight literally being lifted off you. Being assertive is good for you; it increases your self-confidence and perpetuates a feeling of taking control of your own life.
You'll avoid disappointment: Let's say you can't stand chocolate-covered cherries and your partner buys you some as a gift. If you act excited about them just to avoid hurting your partner's feelings, and they continue to buy you chocolate-covered cherries year after year, you've sort of made your own bed of chocolate-cherry disappointment, you know?
You'll stop resenting the people around you: There is a tendency in "polite society" to expect those around us to guess what our needs are instead of spelling them out, then silently seething when they don't or can't. By speaking up, you’re giving those closest to you a chance to meet your needs rather than becoming victims of your unexpressed resentments.
You'll get what you want: This is the best reason of all. Most of us feel it's too demanding to articulate what we truly desire, so we might express half requests instead in the hope that others will figure out that they are expected to fill in the gaps. But if you are clear about what you want (and what you don't want,) the chances of your needs being met skyrocket, and you’ll end up a happier and more fulfilled person.
Take the time to know yourself. Make a list of your priorities and values. Only by understanding what they are can you know when to speak up if one of them is threatened.
Choose your words carefully, avoiding abstract language. Don't say it's "not a problem" if it's a problem. Don't tell your child to spend a "reasonable" amount of money or time on something - their definition could be drastically different than yours.
Value being honest over being nice. Nice doesn’t win you friends or promotions or respect - integrity does. Nice sets you up to be a doormat and an afterthought. (Important to note: nice and kind are not the same things! You can ask for what you want and say what you mean and still not be an jerkface while doing it.)
Take time to consider before committing. Our immediate instinct is to agree to a request, but automatically saying "yes" can lead to bitterness, resentment and regrets. Get in the habit of saying you need some time to think about it, check your schedule, first.
Practice, because the more you do it, the easier it becomes. We often lack the verbal framework for speaking our minds, so our words come out clumsily and can be hurtful. The good news is that the more practice to you get in speaking out, the easier it will be to frame your words thoughtfully and tactfully.
Self-Care September Day 21: Say What You Mean and Ask for What You Want
You've got what it takes. I know you do.
I love you and I'll see you soon!