Sunday, February 7, 2016


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—anythingnow, 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!