Archive

Monthly Archives: February 2012

My step daughter was killed in an automobile accident when she was 21; I was in China on business when it happened.  I was supposed to have gone out to dinner with her the night before I left but I cancelled because I felt too pressured to get things done before the trip.  I wish I had said yes, I wish I had made her the priority and seen her that one last time.

A young woman I know was enlisting in the Navy.  One day her recruiter was driving her to an appointment and he started asking her really personal questions about her sex life.  When she didn’t respond, he proceeded to tell her in detail about the women he had slept with.  When he asked her if this was making her uncomfortable and if she was a prude, she didn’t really answer, just shrugged and made some awkward comment.  She wishes she had spoken up and told him that he was totally out of line.  It still bothers her years later that she didn’t.  She wonders how many other female recruits he treated like that.

A friend of mine had a boss that was really abusive; he was always putting down his employees and yelling at them in front of everyone.   He made it an incredibly difficult work environment and she was miserable.  Eventually she went out on medical leave and never returned to the job.  She wishes she had told her boss what she thought of him before she left.   By staying silent she didn’t get any closure and the thought of visiting friends at that office still gives her anxiety, not to mention the impact that unresolved relationship has had on subsequent bosses.

We all have things we wish we had said to someone –a proclamation of love that went unsaid or standing up for oneself in an awkward situation; times where, in hindsight, we would have said things differently.  In some cases, like my stepdaughter’s accident, there is no way to know that you are going to regret the lost opportunity and there is no chance to change that.  But, more often than not, we have another chance to speak up and say what we want.

It takes guts to confront someone but it can be done effectively by moving beyond the emotionality of the situation.  When someone says something that upsets us we have an immediate mind-body reaction.  Our blood gets pumping, our anger or embarrassment rises, we can feel it in our stomach and we want to lash out.  And in that case, it’s a good thing we don’t immediately say something as reacting from a place of emotion doesn’t usually have a positive outcome.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever speak up.

Avoiding conflict may be the right thing to do in the moment; however, as with my friend with the abusive boss, not ever addressing it can cost you dearly.  Don’t view waiting as a missed opportunity, and don’t let it be your excuse for never addressing it.  Taking the time necessary to calm down will allow you to formulate a rational response and alleviate a lot of future angst.  Sometimes it can just take a count to 10, a brief pause to calm your nerves and let your mind sort through your reaction so you can respond.  Other times, you may have to take a day or two to until you find a statement that feels right.  Addressing an issue later, when it is less volatile, can be far more productive for all parties.  Living your life saying “I wish I said that,” not so productive.

It takes effort to keep meaning in the things we say.  Greetings, salutations, even protestations of love become more of a habit than expressions of our feelings.

As Americans we pretty much use the phrase “how are you” as a substitute for hello.  We toss it out as we walk past someone and don’t actually expect or even wait for an answer.

Salutations have become non-descript as well. I actually think about salutations all the time, I look for them at the end of all the correspondence I get and I often spend a good 30 seconds or more trying to figure out the proper one to use when I write people.

In business correspondence I often use “respectfully yours.”  I like the message it implies.  In personal correspondence I often close with “take care.”  These days, however, the majority of people don’t use salutations at all.  They just end it, kind of feels like they hung up a phone call without saying goodbye.

A lot of couples end phone conversations with “I love you” rather than goodbye.  Right after I separated from my husband, I accidentally found myself hanging up from a contentious phone call saying “love ya.”  Thing was, I didn’t love him anymore, it was just such a habit to end a call with that phrase that I didn’t even think about it.  I love you had come to mean goodbye.

It is easy to spend so much time inside our own heads that we walk through life on automatic pilot, tossing out habitual phrases without thinking – greeting a group of women with “hey guys,” calling a co-worker “dude” or “girl,” adding “you know” or “like” into every sentence.

A little thought behind the words you use goes a long way to endear you to others.  People will feel they are important if every time you say “how are you?” you wait for a response.  “I love you” will maintain far more meaning if you only use it when you can really connect with the other person.  Your co-workers will have a sense of recognition if you use their name instead of a generic characterization.  A thank you given with emphasis and direct eye contact expresses far more appreciation than one casually tossed out as you run out the door.

Certainly you are going to like appear far more intelligent if you like leave out habitual throw away words, you know dude.

Judiciously,

Tina