How to Speak your Truth
Updated: Jul 4
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”
– Peter Drucker.
In a recent article, we discussed the importance of staying present with our conversations and interactions. When we are on a path towards self-awareness and becoming conscious of all our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, we can begin to take this further.
We have described the process of becoming conscious many times in various articles and in detail in our book “How to Rise – A Complete Resilience Manual.” It requires a slowing down of our processing when we are triggered. On slowing down, we foster gratitude to the Self for having noticed that we are provoked. We then need to press pause. When we do this, we can consciously choose what to do in response.
This week we would like to talk about consciously choosing what we say and taking particular care that our words are perfectly aligned with our intentions. In his book “The Four Agreements” Don Miguel Ruiz refers to this as “being impeccable with your word.”
How many times in a day do you construct your sentences to have hidden meanings to make your point or to demonstrate to someone that you are not happy with their behaviour? These are referred to by HeatherAsh Amara as “contaminated messages.”
1. “Will you load the dishwasher and put the bins out?”
“I suppose so, even though I have been at work all day and I did those jobs the last three times they needed doing.”
2. “There is dog mess on my lawn.”
“I’m so sorry, I will clean it up immediately and fix the fence where our dog has come through.”
“Other people I know who have dogs watch them when they are outside, and better still, walk them twice a day, especially after meals!”
In the first example, the person responding to the request clearly does not feel it fair that they should be asked to do the job.
In the second example, the first person clearly holds the second accountable for the presence of the dog mess and wishes to make them aware of his irritation without actually saying the words to directly express it.
Both examples are loaded with thinly veiled emotion. Although the words themselves do not technically express annoyance (they are merely statements of fact,) they are clearly intended to apportion blame. As we have said so many times, no-one can make us feel anything unless we choose to let them. When we are provoked into an emotional response by the behaviour of someone else, it is our stuff – that is we are being signposted at to where we can work within ourselves to become more resilient. Every time this happens, it is an opportunity. The use of contaminated messages is an unconscious response. Rather than acknowledging that we have been triggered, we move straight into ‘victim’ and craft our words in such a way that they do not contain anything that implicates us.
There are many reasons why we might communicate in this way. In our early conditioning, there may be the agreement never to be rude, or we may harbour a need to be liked or regarded as a ‘good person.’ All these needs are connected to self-worth, and when we recognise them, we can begin to reframe the way that we see ourselves. When we do this, the way that others see us is also transformed.
How often have you heard a sentence begin with
“I don’t mean to be rude but…..”
“I’m not being awful but….” or
What usually follows is something rude, awful or disrespectful, but it is as if we have attempted to hide that intention with our disclaimer.
If we feel that we are about to say something rude or disrespectful, we firstly need to decide whether the comment is necessary. If we are gossiping, the intention is usually to elevate ourselves above someone else or to find fellow feeling with our peers at the expense of another. Although gossip may give us brief feelings of joy, it is a practice which does not foster wellbeing in the long run. However, if we do we deem that the comment is of value, we can consciously reframe it in such a way that it does not cause offence.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but you’ve barged right in the front of the que, and some of us have been waiting here for ages” can be reframed to
“Excuse me madam you aren’t joining the que it at the end and these people have been waiting for a long time.”
“With the greatest of respect, I find you rude, inappropriate and bad at your job” can become
“Your behaviour in the workplace was not fitting for your role this morning.”
We have written so many times about the importance of observing the Self. When we observe our intentions in communicating and our responses to others, we can make conscious choices.
Cultivate the habit of stepping into the shoes of your Observer Self during all your interactions. This
is the part of the psyche that bears witness. It is the part that can report thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It is not the part that does the thinking, feeling or behaving. The Observer Self stands back and collects data without judgement or analysis.
When you are practised at invoking your Observer Self, you will notice that your thoughts about what you are saying are accompanied by emotion. Emotions are body experiences created by the brain in response to your thoughts. You may feel them in the head, chest stomach or bowels and when you are practised you will begin to notice a distinct difference between body sensations when your communications are and are not aligned with your intentions. When you are not in alignment, you will feel less comfortable. Practise the art of noticing. Congratulate yourself every time you pick this up. You are making progress.
Whenever you find yourself engaging in contaminated messaging, press pause:
As always take your awareness to your breathing and give yourself space during the conversation. Creating space may feel alien at first but is never a bad thing. It allows you time to process information from the other person, assess your own emotional responses and to construct your replies in a positive way.
When constructing your responses to others in conversation
· Cultivate the habit of observing yourself and others without analysis
· Notice your own emotions and take note of areas where you might be being signposted to work on the Self
· Make sure that the words that you use are aligned fully with what want to translate
· Allow for breathing space during the conversation
· Word your sentences clearly
· Use positive, clear language
· Come at every situation from a position of respect
When we communicate clearly, respectfully and positively, our interactions have meaning for all involved.
For more than 60 additional tools and techniques try ‘How to Rise – A Complete Resilience Manual’ from Sheldon Press.
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