Magic Words for Grown-Ups

Want to transform your work or home life with just four little words? Well, it’s easy…just Say What You Mean. Be aware of what you need, what works for you and what doesn’t and actually voice it. Say. What. You. Mean. So simple yet so many of us struggle with it and hope someone will read our mind.

It’s a key concept to master. Had I thought it through at the time it would have saved me from wasting an hour and a half of my life that will never return watching the movie ‘The Book Of Eli’ ( have you seen it? Don’t. It’s truly terrible. Why Denzel, why?) and chosen something I really wanted to see. Why didn’t I do that? Because I had forgotten this simple principle that makes life a whole lot easier and more fun.

It sounds almost too simplistic to be true but so many people have issues with this concept. I know: I’ve been there myself, and I help clients with it every day. It’s very easy to get trapped in a weird kind of socially acceptable Double Think where our own needs are always at the end of the To Do list after everyone else has had their desires taken care of. If we are constantly at the end of our own To Do list we feel resentful and tired. We can also get expert in passively aggressively expressing that resentment which isn’t good for anyone.

Moving ourselves up our own To Do list can be breaking the habit of a lifetime. The main reasons I see clients avoiding doing this is because of the following misconceptions:

1.     My needs are less important than my children/spouse/boss/cat

2.     He/She should be able to know what I need/would make me happy

3.     If I say what I mean there will be conflict and it will be horrible

What this boils down to is:

1.     Completely illogically thinking that other people’s needs are more important than our own. How can that be? It makes no sense. Our needs are equally as important as any another human being.

2.     Expecting our spouse, friends and colleagues to be mind readers: which of course they are not. A sure fire recipe for disappointment.

3.     Assuming that there will be conflict if we voice our needs. Actually in reality generally other people  welcome the clarity and direction.

If you could do with a little more in your life that really pleases you try working through 4 easy steps:

Say: this is key…you need to actually voice it. Yes, that’s out loud. Take responsibility for your needs and voice what’s on your mind. You don’t need to be aggressive, just calmly state what’s important to you. Stop expecting everyone else to be a mind reader.

What: be specific. How can anyone really help or support you if they don’t understand exactly what it is that will make you happy? Instead of something vague ‘ I’d like it if I could choose a movie I liked for once’ be specific ‘I’d like to choose the movie on Saturday night this week’.

You: this is often the biggest stumbling block. After so many years of putting the needs of your spouse, children or workplace before your own it can be hard to actually tune into the fact that a) you have a need/preference yourself and b) it matters. Remember: your needs are equally as important as anyone else’s.

Mean: you don’t need to be mean but you do need to mean it! Let go of the false assumption that Saying What You Mean will always lead to conflict. You will be surprised how little it does. As you get more of what you want in your life you will find that you resent less of the things that don’t go your way or that you compromise on.

So, start small…speak up with the accounts department and say when you would like the report and that you think that’s a reasonable request; choose the restaurant that you really want to go to; take turns to pick the movie; say no to the party you just really don’t want to attend. I challenge my clients to Say What They Mean once a day as they start to break the habit of constantly deferring their own needs. It’s a fascinating process…the first few times they SWYM with utter trepidation waiting for the sky to fall. Then, the sky doesn’t fall, but spooky, they actually start getting What They Asked For most of the time! They find people like to please them for a change, and before you know it they are accelerating way past the once a day challenge without prompting. Why? Because life becomes easier, more fun, less resentful, when we own what we need to make us happy. They have more energy. Their spouses are happier because they can stop the guessing game of ‘what will keep her happy’. Life becomes a whole lot easier all round.

Will you get what you want every time? Absolutely Not. (Not unless you are Paris Hilton). But sure as hell will get it a lot more that you do when you don’t Say What You Mean. Start embracing these four simple little words and the balance of life will start to shift in your favour immediately.

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