Last month I was sitting at Freshies with another Fix writer writing. Some friends joined us and expressed a worry that they were interrupting us. I laughed and said, “no if you were, I would just tell you directly,” and they responded with, “can that be your next article?” The need for saying how you feel and what you want directly with kindness. It sure can!
Can you imagine a world wherein you knew what everyone around you expected of you? If they let you know what was okay and not okay and then you got to decide if you could follow their needs or set your own boundaries in response? To me, that sounds so nice. Unfortunately, we do not live this way. Most of us are worried about what other’s think or of hurting their feelings. We spend a lot of time trying to anticipate the needs of others, often leading us to act in ways that breach our own integrity and/or are not what the other person actually needed which can lead to frustration and hurt on both ends.
Take a minute and reflect on how often you let people do things that you are not okay with, and you do not say anything. Why? What are your concerns? For me, there were mixed messages in my youth about communication and being polite.
I was taught you say yes when someone offers you something, even if you do not want it or like it, in efforts to not be rude. I took this to the extreme and would eat things I knew I was allergic to in order to not offend. Now I use kindness and say, “Thank you for your offer, I appreciate you thinking of me. I think that is better given to someone who would enjoy it more than I would.”
I was also taught that asking for what I wanted was inconsiderate and selfish in many circumstances. What I learned as an adult however is that stating my needs actually made things easier for both parties as it modeled the appropriateness of it and stopped others from trying to guess or people please with me. I often heard, “what will people think if you….” This left me to believe that it was more important to consider the needs of others than my own. Now, there are times when this is very kind and very important. Communication, however, may not be one of them. For example, it is okay to tell someone that you are busy and do not have time to talk. We can do this with kindness. When we do not and we sacrifice time that we needed for something or someone else we often end up resentful or stressed later. If in the moment we say, “it is so great to see you, right now I am working on this project and I do not have time to talk, can I call you tomorrow to find a time to catch up?” We are stating our needs and kindly letting the other person know that they are importance to us at the same time. It is also okay to leave out the last part about calling them tomorrow if that is not something that we will do or want to do.
Finally, the next time you find yourself thinking, or saying to someone else, “I wonder if they” or “What do they think of ” just ask them. Life is so much easier if we just ask instead of spending hours or days wondering what they think, they can simply tell us, if we make an effort to ask. If we do not like the answer then we can seek the comfort and support we need, acknowledge our feelings and be glad that we know the answer.
The content provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you find yourself in distress, please reach out to your local physician who can provide mental health resources in your community.
Photo by Vanessa Croome