How to improve your relationships: Say what you mean

February 23, 2016

A lot of communication issues would be solved by people speaking directly, meaning truthfully and without manipulation. That may sound obvious, or it may be confusing, depending on where you fall on the continuum of speaking directly or indirectly.


To get more granular, if you start a conversation, are you being clear about what you want to talk about? If you have a question for someone, do you come right out and say it, or take a passive or round-about way of speaking?

Confusion is often the result of mixed messages, indirect questions, and frequently, a hidden agenda or fear of speaking directly. 


Learn how to ask direct questions.

There are a lot of poor questions out there: "Did you get your hair cut?" when it's obviously they did. What was the person asking that really meaning to say? Perhaps something direct like, "Wow, your new haircut looks great!" or "You didn't tell me you were going to the hair stylist - I love your new look!" or, on the other side of things, "That's a big change and I wasn't ready for it, it will take me a while to get used to it."  (I will give some people a pass here; there are plenty of times spouses or others don't notice someone's hair cut for a week or two, then they notice, and then they're embarrassed or not sure, and then the question is legitimate, though it may 'get them in trouble' for not paying attention... simply be honest, apologize if needed.  Remember, it's hair, our most renewable resource.)


There are a lot of indirect and unclear questions and statements out there that don't help you get what you want or help others understand you. If I say, "It sure is hot in here", but what I mean is, "I wish you would turn on the AC so I don't have to get off the couch", that would be much more effective at getting my need to be cooler met. If I want to stop for a drink somewhere, which is more clear to the people I'm with: "Are you thirsty?" or, "I'm thirsty, who'd like to stop for a drink?" The former is passive and indirect, and if they say "no" then you're not any closer to getting a drink.  The latter is very clear to the listeners, making it much easier to communicate, and you're more likely to get what you want.


Intention is everything.

Ask yourself what your intent is when you're talking to someone.


If you'd like to discuss buying your first house with your spouse, and you start off by saying, "I think this apartment is too small", because you're afraid to bring up the subject, your spouse may just think a purge of stuff is in order, or the rooms need rearranging. You are not being clear with your intent, so if you get mad that he or she doesn't "get it", that's on you, darling reader, not them. If money is an issue between you, and you think going about that question less directly will help, it won't. Being honest and direct will get you much further: "I know our finances are tough, and I'd really like to make a plan for getting a house, as we've outgrown this space." Boom. Now they know exactly where you're coming from, and a productive conversation can unfold.


This principle is very important in all types of relationships. Your intention will be a large determinant how well a conversation will go and, in the long term, how well a relationship will develop.  Bonus points if you tell the person your intention, and ask them theirs!


People who learn effective, respectful, kind, and truthful communication will have the healthiest relationships in all areas of their life. Take some time and clean up your questions, decide to be honest with your intent, and watch your relationships thrive.




I help people make positive change happen in their personal and professional lives.  I focus on helping others find the courage and do the work of changing thinking and habits by creating safe space and providing compassionate, practical support.  I'd like to help you make changes and realize your dreams.  Please click here to start the conversation.




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