Do you speak your mind? Are you proud to say you speak your mind? Does it affect how people are with you?

Do you tell it as it is even if you have nothing nice to say with it? I am a firm believer that even if you don’t have anything nice to say, you can still say it so long as you say it nicely, and that there is a nice way to say anything… Eugh, I dislike he word nice… I have used it too much already today…

I read a fabulous article today about the supposedly nice ways to say anything. I thought I’d share those seven ways with you here, what with me being so utterly fascinated with language, the way language is delivered appeals just as much… You’ll have to tell me what you think to these…

So here they are, they are not necessarily the most reliable methods for speaking your mind:

1. Simple and direct: Just say what’s on your mind. “Rinse the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher.” This approach can come across as either refreshing and disarming or assaultive and harsh: “Wow, that was cold. You made no effort to make me feel OK about your critique.”

2. Kidding: Tease about the behavior you want changed. “You must think the dishwasher keeps food safe for human consumption, because next time we use these plates we’re going to be eating leftovers that you didn’t rinse off them.” Effective if you’re addressing someone who can find a way to laugh with you; mean-spirited if you’re not. “You think laughing at me is going to win me over to your perspective?!”

3. “I” message: Don’t speak with authority and moralize, just say how the behavior makes you feel. “When you don’t rinse the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, I feel disappointed.” This kind of statement can feel very honest, humble, and authentic–or it can seem disingenuous and like beating around the bush: “Why say that you feel disappointed, when what you really mean is that you want me to change?”

4. Keep it impersonal: Don’t pit yourself against the other person. Talk about simple cause and effect: “When people don’t rinse the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, they don’t get clean and the people get sick.” This approach keeps personalities out of it, but can also sound like you’re pulling rank: “Who do you think you are telling me how the world works?”

5. Ask doubt-provoking questions: Don’t make statements at all. Instead ask whether they’ve considered doing things differently. “Darling, have you considered rinsing the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher?” It can sound authentically interested, receptive, and respectful, or can sound manipulative: “Why do you ask? Clearly you’re not asking what I want, you’re just asking as a sneaky way to weigh in on how I do things.”

6. Briskly sugar coated: one-minute manager style. Bookend your critique with positive statements. “It’s wonderful that you did the dishes. Next time rinse them first, and run the soak cycle, and don’t use so much soap, but really, that was great.” It can soften the confrontation but again can feel manipulative: “Wow, you think muttering some boilerplate positivity will fool me? How patronizing.”

7. Brisk and self-effacing: State the feedback plainly and then give an example of applying the same feedback to yourself. “The dishes didn’t get rinsed last time you did them. I sometimes forget to rinse them too.” It can make your feedback less threatening, but can also feel like manipulative soft-pedaling. “Who says I forgot? I don’t believe in rinsing and I don’t appreciate your underhanded way of implying that I share your standards.”

I think it would be wise to use a variety of these styles and methods, though I am often brisk and self-effacing. I often innoculate other peoples queries or worries by pointing them out first… Especially aspects of myself and my work… I know that it can be annoying.

I think we all often fall into the trap of saying that we prefer people to be brutally honest with us, yet we may not really like what we hear when they are… There is often a discomfort about honesty and kindness. I see this a huge amount in therapy.. So many people struggle with taking compliments, let alone honest, constructive feedback…

People’s honest opinions about us can feel and even be harsh, disappointing, and cruel. Genuine kindness can feel manipulative, patronising, and disrespectful — and much of what people think they mean as kindness can really be quite a contrast… I know in NLP, one presupposition is that the meaning of every communication is the response it receives… Yet so few people ever take the time to understand what response their communication got…

I recommend to all my students that they pay good attention (remember those sensory acuity exercises!) to who they are talking to, and to tailor the most suitable responses accordingly… I speak my mind consistently, in a variety of ways… Underlying it is a good intention though and I believe that if that intention exists, it shines through, almost regardless of how you go about speaking your mind… 🙂