Now isn't always the time to speak your mind. Sometimes now is a really bad time. If your temper is out of control, your thoughts aren't totally clear, you've got a string of obscenities rolling through your head that you're close to hurling at someone, or if the one thing you wanna say right now will destroy you, the relationship, or the situation, then ... nope ... now's not a good time.
Sadly, so many times we allow ourselves to "go there," to let people
make us snap. We get into verbal altercations that, when over, we truly
regret having partaken in. We wish like hell we'd not lost our cool and
said that thing; we're mad at ourselves because we didn't take the time
to exit stage right and go formulate the best response to a crucial
matter; we lament over having let ourselves be emotionally assaulted by
someone, without so much as offering three words in our own defense.
It's like we forget that we have a choice in the matter, that we can
press pause before we move forward (or let people continue to trample on
us) so we can make sure things go as smoothly as possible. Many times
we get swept away by our ego: "I can't let so and so have the last word
so I need to finish this now"; "I won't let so and so talk to me like this"; "If I don't say something—anything—now, I'll lose the opportunity to have my say."
Communication is so important. Healthy, calm communication is even more
important. Words are our most powerful resource and weapon, and when we
use them haphazardly, it can literally ruin us and others. Whether
they're conveyed in person or not, the words we choose, the time we
choose to release them, and the tone we choose for their delivery are
truly the be all and end all of how our relationships are played out. I
can't tell you how many times I've wanted to kick myself for having "let
that slip out," not speaking up for myself (either at all or in the way
I would have preferred), or for not waiting until I'd had a chance to
calm down or assess all of my feelings first.
When you don't communicate clearly, or in a way or time frame that's
best for you, even if the other person disagrees with your methods, it
chips away at your self-esteem. Life can be really difficult when your
communication skills are not on point. You have to talk to people. You can't avoid disagreements. People will take
issue with what you have to say sometimes, maybe even a lot. Healthy
communication is an art. It doesn't just happen. You don't just come
into the world with stellar skills. It takes being able to get in touch
with and be honest about your feelings, being confident in the fact that
they matter (even if you're the only one who thinks they do), and
learning how and when to say things so that when the interaction is
over, you feel good about how you presented yourself. Here's
the thing: people don't have to like what you say; in fact, if it's not
what they wanna hear, then they probably won't. But that doesn't matter.
As long as you state your case as clearly, confidently, and
respectfully as possible, then your work is done. It's not necessarily
your job to get people to agree with you. Sometimes it's merely about
being heard, understood, and respected.
However, like I said at the beginning, sometimes later is a better time
to pursue all that. Sometimes not engaging right now is the best, most
compassionate thing you can do for yourself and the people involved.
Sometimes you may find that not saying anything at all is the best
approach, depending on what's at stake. Once an interaction goes
sideways, that's it; there's no fixing it. You can apologize, sure, but
the damage will have already been done. And if there's one thing people
are great at, it's remembering when something jacked up has been said to
them, and holding a grudge about it.
Right now, I'd like to introduce you to the concept of the flip side of
compassion, the kind that often doesn't look or feel good but that
really is the best way to handle a situation in the moment. While in
progress, it may not get you any love or respect, but in the end, after
you've had time to get your head right, all involved will hopefully see
that your silence was indeed a gift. I wrote this poem after
I'd had a moment where I chose silence over an angry outburst. It was
then that I realized how important that other side of the coin is, and
that it's actually a great and necessary thing.
How would you rate your communication skills? Do you feel good about the
way you interact with people? How can you improve? Can you see how
utilizing compassion in the way I described in the poem could be beneficial? Just
some questions to ask yourself. I encourage you to ponder
them, your answers, and ways to uplevel your articulation game.
Always remember to honor the spirit!