How To Improve Your Language And Say What You Mean

Say what you mean

I say: “I didn’t spill the yogurt all over your dress”

I mean, “I did spill the yogurt all over your dress”

I say “I don’t want to be rude, but…”, “I hate to spoil the fun, but…”

I mean “I want to be rude, and …”, “I love to spoil the fun, and…”

Say what you mean

Say what you mean!

Why do we find it so difficult to tell the truth, and say what is really going on in our minds? Why do we have to cloud our speech with unclear language?

We put so much thought and effort into what we write on paper, whether it is a job application letter, a piece of prose, a blog entry or a birthday card. It is rather amusing then, that a lot of Irish people can stumble over their words, when asked a question at a network meeting, dinner party or any gathering of people. We seem to get caught up in saying something for the sake of it, rather than pondering for a moment to gather our thoughts, and answering then in a constructive and informative fashion.

Or what about sarcasm?

They (whoever THEY are) say that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit! Sarcasm is a reflection of how we see ourselves, that when we are sarcastic towards someone, we are then really directing that back to self? I am very aware that when we criticise another, we are essentially criticising ourselves, using the other person as the medium or mirror for our self-criticism.

Mean what you say!

For example, take the proud father at the football match. His son or daughter has been running the pitch for 30 minutes in the rain, after being dragged out of their warm bed to play in the local team, who are woefully losing. Morale is low and the coach is doing his best to get the kids to soldier on. The proud father begins shouting at the child to get a move on, and “stop standing around like a wet rag” or something to that effect. I often wonder how this is encouraging a child to progress when their confidence is already wavering. Will that man’s cajoling and criticising inspire that child to run faster or jump higher for the ball? Who is he really angry with for not succeeding? Did he maybe not make the team at all when in school?

I wonder what is motivating the father to cajole his child like that in public. Or to focus on the C grade in their exam results, when all the other grades were straight As. Rather than focusing on the good grades, he singles out the lower grade and uses this information to question why his child is such a failure. Who is the failure I wonder?

So next time you are about to cajole a work colleague, sibling, child, parent or friend, just stop for a nano second and think why you are about to say that. If you are in company, is it respectful to insult or demean another in front of everyone? Even in the name of a joke? What really is your motivation?

Did you get the last say? Did you? Did you?

Your spouse is telling a story about somehting that happened in “June”. Is it imperative to immediately correct them, and declare it was in fact July when it happened? I have been guilty of this some years ago when I suspected my partner was exagerating some facts. I took the high moral ground and corrected him on the spot. Not only did it break his story and leave him stumbling for words, our friends looked at me as if to say “What does it matter?”

It didn’t matter, only that I had to have my say. I have learned my lesson, and am much better now at letting people tell their story to the end, and NOT feeling compelled to come up with a more exciting story, just to make sure I had the last say. As a coach, I now listen and give the other person space and time to relate their view/story.

Let’s talk about language

When someone asks me “How are you?” I generally answer, “I am great thanks, how are you?”. If I am not great, I say it: “I could be better” or “Getting there”. So what resonates for you here? How many people do you know that would automatically answer “Not bad!” or “middling” or “struggling” when asked how they are? What is wrong with these answers? What’s right with these answers?

“Not bad” is a double negative for starters. So the words alone register in the unconscious mind that things are bad – it focuses on the adjective, and registers BAD. How could we feel good after saying things are not bad? Could we try something to replace this like “Good, thanks” – unconscious registers “GOOD”. This is a far more positive feeling than “NOT” and “BAD”.

What’s in a word?

You are asked to collect your friend at 7pm. And you reply, “I’ll try”. What does this tell them? That you are not that bothered whether you are there on time, as your favourite tv program only finishes at 7pm so maybe you’ll wait until then before you leave the house. “I’ll try” provides you with a “get out” clause for when you are late. It sends the message “I’ll try but I might not make it, I’ll see”. Would you say that to a client? I have yet to hear it. So why disrespect your child / friend / partner in such a way?

Words like hopefully, suppose, try, maybe etc are fillers in conversation that allow us to fail and provides the reason (excuse) – “I said I’d try!” Ha! Think again and commit next time. Commit to treating the other person with the respect they deserve. If they don’t deserve the respect, then say so (but only if you mean it).

How to improve your language and say what you mean

  • Say nothing, if your thoughts are not complimentary or positive
  • Leave useless criticism where it belongs – unsaid
  • Never make assumptions – ASSUME makes an ASS out of U and ME. Always ask for clarification.
  • Leave out words like “I’ll try” and “I’ll do my best”
  • Never take anything said as fact, treat merely as opinion (including this article), unless stated as fact
  • Don’t begin a sentence with “I don’t mean to be ****, BUT…”
  • If you have nothing good to say, say nothing
  • Praise in public, criticise in private. If you point your finger at someone, remember there are 3 fingers pointing right back at you.
  • Delete negative and vague words from your language
  • Avoid get out clauses – say what you mean!
  • When giving praise, mean what you say!

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