A resolution of mine this year is to say what I mean and mean what I say. To some people this comes very naturally, like “duh, what else would you do?”, but I am a recovering people pleaser… What I tend to do, have done, is to say whatever will make the person talking to me smile and go away.
Non-confrontational to a fault.
I volunteered to help someone with marketing last spring, someone who has an extremely brilliant idea and a…well, a “not marketable”, website. I built him a new one and created other marketing suggestions that he chose not to use. Four months later he forwarded me a bunch of suggestions about the website I created from random folks on the internet, and some were straight-up trolls about it.
This is where I made my mistake.
What I wanted to say: I couldn’t care less about these people’s opinions, or yours, since you took four months to even look at the website I created for you, for free. Good luck, and I really respect your business idea, but I’m done volunteering for you.
What I actually said: Well, most of those suggestions don’t really make sense to me, and I’m not sure what their background is, it doesn’t seem to be marketing… Especially that real mean guy… But I’ll look through them closer, you never know where good ideas come from… Ohhh, oh you want me to rebuild the whole site? Oh, well, I’m pretty busy these days, but I’ll sure try, I really love your idea…
I had a dream shortly after our meeting where a writer I admire was bossing me around. She was asking me to do all of these unreasonable things, and I kept doing them because I respect and look up to her, and because she was being so darn nice about her unreasonable requests. Finally I lost it and said, “JUST BECAUSE I LOVE YOUR WORK DOESN’T MAKE YOU BETTER THAN ME OR GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!”
I woke up frazzled, then laughed at myself. Some dreams are mighty easy to translate… I’m still working on respectfully removing myself from that situation, but the lesson has finally been seared into my brain:
Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Or as don Miguel Ruiz puts it, be impeccable with your word. When we’re inauthentic, even in the slightest, it’s like putting a fog around ourselves and our intentions. It creates tension with the person or situation involved, sometimes even without our knowledge…an oozy disingenuousness just festering in our subconscious. (Waiting to become a weird dream!)
Why do we feel we can’t say the whole truth? The answer is almost always fear, usually of someone’s reaction. The thing is that their reaction is up to them, that’s their business. It’s not up to us to attempt to mitigate another person’s response. Assuming that another’s reaction will be unpleasant, and withholding a truth as a result, is saying we don’t have faith in them to behave in a respectful manner. They don’t even get a chance to step up!
Plus being inauthentic leaves you feeling all foggy, and it’s way more pleasant to bask in clear glowy truthiness. Ahhh, sweet warmth of clarity…cozy.
I’m trying to live up to this resolution, noting flails pretty frequently. Talking story is a big place I have trouble, because sometimes a story would be totally funnier with some detail amped up a bit… That has nothing to do with fear, just a love of getting a laugh, but authenticity is authenticity.
There’s also the omission factor. I don’t want to become some b who’s all like, I just call it like I see it!, after hurting someone’s feelings. However, I don’t want to lie to someone because I don’t think they can handle my perspective, or a fact they’re unaware of. I’ve just been going with my heart-guts in each situation.
Tactful authenticity…saying precisely what you mean without being mean. Certainly not the loftiest goal I’ve set for myself, and it feels really really good when I manage to do it well. Totes worth the squeeze.