This question comes up A LOT in my office. Especially, when it comes to communicating with the ones you care for the most or spend the most time with.
Personally, I have to admit I love hanging around people who say it like it is. This is the person who isn’t afraid of how their words may be interpreted by others. I feel you are being genuine when you express how you really feel.
Why? Think of what the implications might be if you were to do the opposite. Would you prefer to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Are you conforming to act or express yourself in a certain way that is really not authentic to you and how YOU feel? There is a huge risk in doing this. I don’t mean you lost a chance to express yourself in the moment, what I mean is…
The risk is that you are not aligning toward your true core values.
Think about it. For every interaction or communication attempt you make in life with another individual, you are negotiating with yourself first. It may be a split-second decision in terms of what comes out of your mouth, but it is a decision that is based on how this response feels to you. What sort of energy is flowing through your body?
You may have heard me in the room note that the most important relationship you have in life is with yourself. Therefore, you check in with yourself first, and if it feels right, express this to your communicative partner. The person may not like what you are saying, or agree with what you are saying, but if it aligns with your values, then it is the best response you can give to them. If this person has similar values as you – then they will eventually understand you.
What are my values you ask?
Many people do not know what their values are. Have you ever tried to list your top 5 values? Think of what is the most important to you at this time in your life. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Purpose in Life
- Maintaining Close Friendships
- Service to your Community
- Physical Health
Now, let’s put this in action by giving you an analogy in which you need to first negotiate with yourself, check in to your core values, and then decide what comes out of your mouth. I will provide the analogy of two romantic partners in a communication attempt with one another. The couple is Todd and Rhianna. I will assist Rhianna to check in with her core values in order to play this out. Her top values happen to be; Career, Children, Honesty, Physical Health, and Emotional Health. Todd and Rhianna have 3 children under 8 years old.
The family has just had supper. It is a beautiful summer evening. The kids have been wanting to get school supplies for some time and the parents also want to get this done, so they decide to head out to Staples. Then, Rhianna receives a text from one of her close friends who wants to take advantage of this summer evening, and requests she join her for a walk to catch up. They haven’t had a chance to see each other in a long time and Rhianna would love to connect with her. However, Rhianna knows her family has plans, so she begins to negotiate with herself.
“I want to help the kids and Todd pick out supplies. I have always helped them with the school lists. Todd is not the most organized and I know he prefers me to help him. I haven’t made time to go for a walk in so long. How many more nights will we have like this? Summer is coming to an end. It would be nice to see her.”
Let’s stop and check her core values? What is pulling her toward walking? Physical health, emotional health, and honesty. What is pulling her towards jumping in the car with Todd? Her children and partner.
There you have it. Negotiation is done. Rhianna is going for walk with her girlfriend. Are the kids and Todd happy about it? Probably not, but that is okay. Why? Because by aligning to her core values, Rhianna is a happier and more fulfilled person.
Could Todd call her selfish? Perhaps (if he is a jerk – sorry, but it is true), but I like to call this selfless. Rhianna is aligning to her own self-worth. Her ‘self-check’, which occurred in milliseconds, would have told her whether to fulfill her needs today or not. Maybe if Rhianna was at the cabin days prior to this and went on lots of nature hikes with her family or by herself, she might have passed on this opportunity. However, something is pulling her to take care of herself, her emotional and physical health. Most importantly, Rhianna is being HONEST, which to me is one of my most important values. I don’t think I could write this post without you being able to see what values are important to me. This is how I write. I check in with myself so I can be authentic and real in the way I write. My posts, ideas, and thoughts are not always going to sit well with all that read them, and that is okay.
This is why the title of this post is what it is. When to say or not say how you really feel. What you do not understand is that if you continue to be disingenuous to yourself, you are living a shallow life. And the vignette written above shows a simple example of what practising this in daily life might look like. If you don’t practise the self-check-in on a daily basis, you are not going to be able to do it when it comes to major life decisions. Should I have children or not? Do I want to live just outside the city or not? Do I enrol my kids in public or private school? Do I pick the kids up from daycare or does my partner? Do I have a meeting with my administration asking for a promotion/raise or do I sit quiet? Do I contact my professor to question this exam mark or not? Do I end this relationship or continue to spend time with this person?
Hmmm – Suddenly, this post is not so light anymore.
Are you living up to your core values? Or are you simply taking the path of least resistance in order to just scrape by? These days of scraping by are adding up to years of your life.
“The best time to start living according to your values is today.”
The best time to start living according to your values is today. Are you putting too much effort, money, or time into living according to a value that is not even on your list? If so, this might be why you are feeling like you are today.
I hope this helps you make some better choices in the days to come. I want you to become an excellent negotiator not only with yourself, but with the people around you. If that inner dialogue is not going well, then ask yourself one simple question.
What are my concerns? What am I fearing?
The answers will come.