Too bad saying what we really mean to say isn’t that easy. Even those of us who are on the blunter side of the communication spectrum can find ourselves inventing phrases and trying to come up with the right things to say.
I collected what I feel are the three best pieces of advice on this topic – and they are short and sweet. Keep these in your back pocket! A good strategy is to focus on one that you will work toward mastering, rather than trying to implement all of the ideas at the same time (which may overwhelm you).
1. Uncover your hidden messages, and then craft the communication that speaks the truth.
In this article, Bert Webb talks about hidden messages. The example he gives is of his secretary telling a client who asked to see Mr. Webb as soon as possible that he “could not see” Mr. Webb until late the following week, because Mr. Webb’s “calendar was so full.” His secretary probably didn’t mean to tell the client that he was just too unimportant for Mr. Webb, but that’s the message that came across.
If his secretary meant that the client could see Mr. Webb next week, well, that’s what she should have said and then asked to book the appointment. This situation doesn’t call for additional context that may actually mess up the whole thing.
2. Understand what words mean before using them.
I like how A Mountain Momma talks about the use of the word tolerate (and its various forms), and why it doesn’t work in the context of political discussions (think: we should be more “tolerant”). She’s right, particularly in the larger sense of saying what we really mean. We use words that we don’t understand fully, because we grow up hearing them used in a certain context and don’t bother to research those words ourselves. In her post, she is saying that people use tolerate when what they really mean is different than that, because to tolerate is to allow. In the context of racism, for example, there is no such need for you to simply tolerate other races. Your allowance isn’t required, after all. Perhaps respect would be a more suitable term in many cases.
Bottom line: Know what words really mean before using them. Broaden your vocabulary beyond simple knowledge to keen understanding.
3. Keep the Niceties for Date Night, Not Work
This is a personal favorite of mine, even though it is easier said than done for many people. Essentially, what this Forbes article is saying is that cutting the bull/B.S. is going to take you a lot further in your communication than beating around the bush, hinting at things, or worse, saying what “you’d really like” to have.
In other words, if you want the report/project/task done this week, ask for it to be done this week. Don’t say that it’d be great to have it this week or that you’d really like that. That may not get the message across. What if the person you’re speaking to isn’t overly concerned with what you’d really like?
Think about it.