Speaking up. Speaking out. Speakimg your mind… with confidence. Sounds easy, right? But it’s not. And you know what I just realized?
I spend more time in conversation with adolescents than with adults. I think that’s a great thing. I am more inquisitive, more engaged, and more myself when dealing with those under the age of twenty, probably because I like their style. Their communication style.
Of course they text and Skype, they phone and Facebook. But they also socialize plenty in person as well. The teens I know are funny, observant, and very direct. That’s something I appreciate tremendously.
When’s the last time you spoke your mind?
Most of the time, kids tell the truth. They perceive, they think, they feel – and out tumbles their response. By the time they’re adolescents, naturally they’ve mastered the art of working the adults to get what they want, just as we’ve learned to say no when we must – if we’re smart. They’ve also acquired the finesse to offer a compliment to be kind, but largely, they express themselves clearly. At least, in my experience.
Our media examples
We certainly don’t have media examples of speaking one’s mind coolly; we only need to check our latest Reality TV shows. Yes, those Housewives (among others) speak their minds – ratings style – some cruelly, some manipulatively, many brashly, and some purely for the purposes of our watching eyes and listening ears, don’t you think?
But what about speaking up? Saying what you mean and meaning what you say? Not hiding your feelings, your concerns, and sharing them constructively? Doing so without attack or malice?
I suppose you could say there is a hidden agenda in every communication. But I prefer to position it this way: there is a purpose to every communication. In fact, multiple purposes – some that are clear and primary, others that may be less tangible or secondary.
I am usually aware when an adult is saying one thing and meaning another – trying to “work” me or manipulate a situation. Likewise, I recognize when what is expressed on the surface is only obscuring other objectives. Certainly, there are times when we don’t know precisely why we say what we do, but the very act of articulating an opinion or a feeling is helpng us clarify our purpose.
Some of recognizing an agenda is a matter of experience – reading body language, assessing tone of voice. It’s a matter of knowing who you’re speaking with and reading between the lines. As for unspecified intentions, if I perceive no harm – then no foul. Otherwise?
It’s another matter entirely.
How to speak your mind
Maybe this is why I enjoy conversation with teenagers. Banter makes no attempts to cloak itself in anything but fun. Requests are generally made directly, and opinions offered freely.
Certainly in our little household.
Likewise, my preference in friends is for those who speak their minds. They just do it. They say what they think, but not without charm, humor, and care. They censor what is irrelevant, they trust the validity of their opinions, and they have assessed my willingness to hear them.
What does it take to do this?
Respect for yourself, for others, and for the process.
Confidence. And practice.
Think before you speak
Remember the old adage that counsels us to think before we speak?
That’s good advice if you ask me. And once again, the kids I know do this better than adults. They learn to filter – especially around adults who know how to edit what is unnecessary, hurtful, or unnecessarily hurtful.
On editing, I have learned that what I don’t say is as important as what I do. So, for example, I gauge the mood of my son, his stress level, where I think his focus is, and I determine whether what I want to say is what he needs to hear. My comments may be important, but better deferrd to another time.
And when you’re angry or overtired? Filter, filter, filter. Take a breath, bite your tongue – do whatever it takes to think before you speak.
Are you a straight shooter?
Many of us love the idea of a straight shooter. There’s no need to assume, and you always know where you stand. Others prefer the delicate dance of silences and guesswork.
My preference is for speaking my mind (kindly), and knowing when to keep quiet (wisely). Both are essential to successful relationships.
- Do you speak your mind?
- Do you choose to stay silent, rather than speak ill of someone?
- Who are your examples for how to communicate effectively and appropriately?