People like to say that things are easier said than done but that’s not always true is it? Sometimes saying something is so much scarier than demonstrating it. And many of us tend towards keeping silent when we really ought to speak up and say something. I am believer in the idea that
Words speak louder than actions.
You read right. Words are powerful. Yes, there is are times when we need to show people how we feel or what we think but there are also times when we need to tell them!
I know that a lot of us struggle to put things into words, especially when it comes to saying things like “I love you”, “I’m hurt” or “I need your help”. We are afraid of saying things the wrong way or being misunderstood, or putting ourselves out there. Words have a way of awkwardly hanging in the air once they are out.
But the power of words is something we all need to harness, particularly in relationships – personal and professional. We need to learn to express ourselves in words, how to say what we need to say. I want to paint some broad strokes on how you can get started on developing your conversation skills. Later, I will share some ideas on how to actually say what you need to say.
Here are my thoughts:
Start small (talk).
People often say that they hate small talk but it is such a good conversation skill developer! Seriously, it takes a great conversationalist to chat about the weather or why the airline needs to improve its checking-in system. Practise expressing your views on every day things to strangers and friends. It will teach you to express your thoughts and feelings in words. Get comfortable with starting conversations about small issues as a starting and build your confidence there.
The two Rs: Read and Write
This may seem odd to you but for someone who struggles to find the words to say things, reading is an important way of building up a storehouse of ways of saying things. How many times have you read a quote that sums up exactly how you feel? Or read an opinion piece and thought “I couldn’t have put it better myself!” I have found that I internalize more of what I read than what I watch on TV. Get reading! And start writing. I often write letters or cards to my friends. Some of which I have given to them, or trashed or kept in my draft folder. Writing helps us process our thoughts while expressing them. When was the last time you sat down and wrote down how your day went. Start there. Writing is especially important when it comes to expressing things that are really hard to say. A number of times before I have a hard conversation with someone I will sit down and write down what I want to say to them. I then leave it (usually to pray, think or talk to someone else about it) and return a few days later and review what I have written. It is a helpful process because it helps me understand my own thoughts on the matter and it gives me enough time to really weigh up what I want to say.
Yes, putting things into words is hard and there is always the danger of putting your foot in your mouth, offending or hurting the person you’re speaking to or just getting lost in what you are saying. But you will live. And you will learn. You will learn that feet can be retrieved from the proverbial mouth, that sometimes the truth does hurt and that a sincere apology can go a long way. You will also learn that the people in your life want to hear your thoughts, feelings and opinions and that they value them, you will discover the power of your words to build and tear down.
These are some really brief notes on how you can practise speaking out. Some other issues that are relevant are the importance of timing, how to be honest without crushing another person’s spirit and how not to let your fear or shyness short circuit a conversation. But that’s for another day!
What are your thoughts?
Thanks for reading.