Apparently, I am terrible at being a woman. At least according to the definition used in my house, which includes the ability to guess what someone else is thinking based on some random clues and indirect questions. And I agree – according to this definition, I absolutely suck at female-ing. Because if you ask me if I want a coffee, I will just reply with a yes or a no. I won’t go around thinking “oh, maybe they’re asking because they want a coffee”. Come on. That’s some seriously handicapped communication.
Today, I set out to help you make your life infinitely easier. Because, of course, when you’re talking with your loved one it’s likely they have a decent understanding of how you communicate, or can read your mood from your body language. But your boss won’t waste time trying to learn that. Or your hairdresser. Or even your child, to be perfectly honest.
That’s where effective, clear communication comes in.
Because how many times have you left the hair salon with your hair not looking quite the way you wanted it to? Or been passed for a promotion because your colleague asked for it while you were waiting to be noticed?
I know that speaking your mind is incredibly difficult. Because we’re worried what someone else will think, or say, or how they will react. Or we’re simply shy, and mumbling a few random words seems easier than saying what we actually want. Or we were raised to think that we shouldn’t bother anyone with our person.
But if we take a step back, we realise that the only thing we achieve by staying silent when we’ve something to say is…hurting ourselves. There’s rarely anything to gain by failing to speak, and we often miss out on opportunities.
If you’re not convinced, I will tell you about 3 situations from my life when I spoke my mind and it paid off.
- A slightly trivial one – a visit to the hairdresser. As you know from my post about affordable ways to get your hair done, I get my hair done by former colleagues. In one way, it’s good, because I know my hair is in good hands. On the other – it’s hard to tell your friend that you don’t like something they’ve done. This one time my hair wasn’t looking good, I felt really uncomfortable having to raise that issue with my friend, who was chatting away. But I decided to man up and tell her, and I ended up leaving with a perfect ‘do. If I hadn’t spoken up, I would have been stuck for weeks with hair I was unhappy with.
- I was working a really crap job which involved washing people’s hair and cleaning (don’t become a salon assistant if you don’t absolutely have to…), when one of the receptionists left. I was already helping out at the desk, but I wasn’t offered to replace her. I could have stayed just helping out, but being paid the lower wage, or… email the salon owner and suggest he gave me the job. Guess which one I went for. A few days later I was officially promoted to front of house, with a backdated pay rise of around 50%.
- This May, I was revising for my exams while working at the same time. Before my accounting exam, I started panicking – it definitely didn’t feel like I had enough time to prepare. But, at the same time, I am a responsible person, and felt that if I decided to work, I would work. Thankfully, Mr Arguably Honest is far smarter than me, and suggested I email my lovely boss and ask for a day off. Which I did. And, to my surprise, my wish was granted (with a choice of which day I wanted off), and finished off with my boss wishing me good luck.
In all of those situations, I felt uncomfortable or nervous when voicing my needs or wishes. And in all those situations, I ended up better off because I did.
So today I want to convince you that speaking up will be beneficial for you. I know no one is going to wake up tomorrow and decide to be all open from now on. That’s not how human nature works. Therefore, I want you to apply the small steps method to this. The more you do something, the more likely it is to become a habit. Like brushing your teeth every morning. As long as you do it. Which I hope you do.
So here are your first 3 steps to clearer communication.
- Start by practicing on your friends/loved one – even though it seems that you already communicate with them clearly (because it’s always easier to do with someone you know well). But I’m sure you experienced the situation when you regretted not telling them something. So next time you want a hug from your boyfriend, just tell him. Or when you want your back scratched. Or to go for a Sunday walk. Getting into the habit of expressing your needs will later make it easier to do with strangers or your boss.
- If you’re afraid to say it, email it – in today’s world, replacing face to face communication with electronic one is no longer considered rude – more like completely normal (in my office, we took it to extreme, emailing the person sitting next to you). So if you don’t feel comfortable calling your boss (personally, I hate talking on the phone) or speaking to them face to face, try emailing them. This way you will also be able to edit what you’ve written until you’re happy with it. Just don’t overdo it, you’re not asking to join the royal family.
- Write out the worst case scenario – or simply give it a think. Because you know what usually is the worst case scenario? Someone will say ‘no’ to you. Now give it a think – will it really be so scary and horrible if someone says ‘no’ to you? How many times have you said ‘no’ to someone, without any malicious intent? Now think what will happen if they say ‘yes’. Do the advantages of the ‘yes’ response outweigh the disadvantages of the ‘no’ one? It’s up to you to decide, but I’m pretty sure 9 times out of 10 (or more, probably), the answer to this question will be ‘yes’.
These steps seem simple, yet we all know it’s not always that easy. But with enough will and practice, you will soon become a master at voicing your needs and wants. I am not yet there. I hope you join me in practice. Because, as you can see from the examples I used above, it is totally worth it. Even if it’s just getting my back scratched.