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What You Say vs. What You WANT to Say

Have you ever left a conversation with someone regretting what you said? What about regretting what you didn’t say?

Unfortunately, misrepresenting our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, wants, and needs seems to be a human specialty. We allow our concerns for what others might think about us, or how we might make them feel, to sway our honesty and clarity in the relationship; OR sometimes we’re so adamant about making a point known that we don’t care how it comes out---as long as it does. Often, either approach leaves some very important information unshared, misheard, or dismissed by those we claim to love and value most in our lives which, in turn, puts these relationships at risk for conflict, resentment, and even failure.

Three major components of the kind of clear emotional expression we need for keeping our relationships healthy are:

  1. WHAT we say

  2. HOW we say it


WHAT we say: The actual words that come out of our mouths when explaining what we feel and what we need from others are our responsibility to think through to the best of our abilities before letting them loose. If we don’t take a moment to pause and consider our valuable messages, we are likely to send incorrect or mixed ones that have the potential to worsen otherwise minor issues. Typically, we are most at risk for being either deceptively-nice, or deceptively-harsh.

For example, we might be quick to people-please rather than speak up about how we’re really feeling, perhaps forcing a laugh each time the sister-in-law makes a “harmless” joke about our cooking, or telling our partner “it’s no big deal” when he/she is late for dinner each night (when really, it is). It’s important that we don’t assume others will realize the errors they make with us on their own without us having to TELL THEM, but we have to first be honest with ourselves before ever expecting to be honest with them.

Unfortunately, the more we deny/hold back our true feelings for “the good of the relationship” the more we are at risk for things going bad. We like to think that we have so much control over how we’re feeling and how well we’re tolerating frustration, but seems the more we claim to “let things go” the more we are actually just harboring hurt and delaying emotional release. With this, all too often it ends up being in that moment of the straw breaking the camel’s back, when we’re completely fed up and passed our boiling points, that we finally get honest with others about what we’re feeling. Really honest. Like FILTER-FREE honest. This runs the risk of us letting loose on the sister-in-law with, “IT’S PROBABLY A GOOD THING THAT YOU DON’T LIKE MY COOKING BECAUSE WITH YOUR WEIGHT YOU COULD STAND TO MISS A MEAL OR TWO,” or unleashing on the significant other who comes home late again, “DON’T EVEN BOTHER COMING HOME AT ALL ANYMORE.” This opposite extreme occurs when we lose track of the LOGIC in what we’re actually meaning to say and while fueled up with emotion, just start spitting out words that are poisoned by that longtime-harbored anger and hurt.

HOW we say it: Most of us have heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” Our use of tone, sarcasm, joking, sugar-coating, etc., certainly does have a lot to do with whether or not our intended messages are getting through.

Let’s consider jokes for a moment. Perhaps the popular phrase, “behind every joke is some truth” comes to mind? Well, joking about our truth (e.g. wants, needs, frustrations) may seem easier than just communicating them outright, but more often than we think, this method actually tends to backfire. One problem with giving our truth a funny and lighthearted mask is that i