What The Beginning of Your Statements May Say About Your Confidence, Your Open-Mindedness, and Your Motives
I am a believer in the power of language.
There have been too many times where my communication failed to portray what I ever really meant to say. I have since attempted to be clear, accurate, and direct, choosing my words wisely. I’ve had messy break-ups that were plagued by my desire to spare the other, saying silly things that were vague or along the lines of “I’m fine”… There was only so much honesty that I was willing to give up and fearing the response influenced my word choice in hopes to soften the blow. But there are many more instances where our opinions are prompted to be heard and depending on our delivery, we might not always take that opportunity.
I’m considering the options on a spectrum that concerns the level of security of the speaker – the confidence behind their opinion, the level of boldness in which they take to communicate their beliefs, their findings, their truths.
As a child I was taught that your feelings are your own. It’s a truth that we can assert and something that we could never take away from another. When I’m prompted to make any sort of claim or if I’m asked for my opinion, I’ve often begun my response with “I feel…”
“I feel like clients would prefer to have diverse programming.”
“I feel like her response was really inappropriate.”
“I feel like the color navy is universally flattering.”
If you’ve caught onto the fact that I hadn’t actually stated any feelings in these statements (angry, confused, elated…), it’s because they weren’t. In an attempt to soften the opinion, to distance myself from the way it may land, the invoking of feeling muddles a decisiveness in these claims. I’ve come to find that this is an easy route to take, especially as a woman, to hide behind my feelings – being irrefutable, right? I’m not inviting an exchange of ideas this way, I’m not taking much of a stance at all. It’s noncommittal and reads (and comes out) as insecurity.
As a person who considers themselves as quite perceptive, I definitely pick up on vibes and have a way of “feeling” what is going on, however, I don’t think this common use of the word is depicting that experience accurately.
Now, what would happen if I replaced the word “feel” with the word “think”?
“…therefore I am,” right? I find myself practicing this choice the most in hopes to authentically voice my opinions. It’s a bold choice that I like to think is humbled by a state of not knowing it all – an arrival or conclusion based on curiosity, experimentation, and findings. Thinking expresses the exercise of making sense of what we have gathered and observed and reporting on how we’ve interpreted it all.
It allows us to stand out individually, taking ownership of our unique perspective and honoring that we recognize that same ability in another. I often point out how easy it is to assume that everyone at our jobs, at the gym, around our dinner table even has the same outlook on the world as we do. Reporting from our post alone can be daunting, against the grain even if we mistakenly think that our shared location or surroundings translates to sharing the same experience or beliefs. It makes way for us to make a declaration and back it up with evidence and reasoning.
“I think that diverse programming is beneficial to both the coach and client – to better express the coach’s creativity and to enhance the client’s experience.”
“I think that when she confronts people in an abrasive way, her point can be lost and people recoil when they’re being yelled at.”
“I think the color navy is universal as it’s comprised of both cool and warm tones that complement most complexions!”
None of these statements are wishy-washy, none are half-assed or unclear. This is what I think and why. This is what I have gathered and concluded. The supportive nature that this way of making statements lends invites people to peer into your point of view. It’s far from fearful or combative and allows for your perspective to be clear and responded to; whereas with the replacement of the word “know” can similarly repel conversation as did the irrefutable “feel” but with a different air to it…
On the flipside of hiding behind our feelings, knowing definitively can be as equally unyielding. I’ve come to find that even my own truths have a way of changing depending on my age, my experiences, and whether I’ve been fed recently… I stray away from declaring I “know” anything, making room for my impression to change, hopefully for the better. Knowing can be a power struggle of sorts, declaring a dominance that cements a certain way of thinking that may hurt or help. Either way, it leaves little room for consideration or even for other people.
Much like a weightlifter’s mathematical shorthand of dropping the number 1 in a three-digit number (earned bragging rights), the “I know” part of the statement is often left off and the statement can sound like an announcement of fact:
“Diverse programming is better for gyms as a business.”
“Her response was borderline abusive.”
“Navy is really the only thing that’ll look good on you.”
I might have a bias towards people who default to this way of communicating, and the statements above might have been a little too abrasive, but that’s because I think (note, think!) making statements without ownership are arrogant! What you claim to “know” is not true for everyone, it doesn’t speak on behalf of everyone around you. Remember that mistake of an assumption I mentioned? I hate being on the receiving end of definitive remarks, it feels like there’s no room to respond, that my opinion isn’t welcomed in return, and that this probably isn’t much of a conversation anyway… Beginning with the recognition that what you’re about to say is your opinion, goes a long way with me.
I like to think my coaching career had a lot to do with my efforts to communicate effectively. Not everyone will register what you’re saying the way that you’re saying it. Trying to appeal to tactile, sensory-specific responses has to be cued in nearly as many ways as there are clients. I’ve learned to be specific and inviting to the other person’s understanding as well. I’m constantly revising what I’m saying out loud to generate the best outcome.
By no means are my statements always accurate. A lot of my word choice can be determined by the level of safety and confidence that I have with any given person or group of people. However, I now know it when I hear it. I catch myself leaning back on “I feel” statements when I should just say what I think goddamnit! It’s a legitimate practice, totally frustrating, but also incredibly powerful. Taking a stance and claiming it as my own has allowed me to effectively communicate in a way I feel proud of. Especially in wild times like these where conversations can be murky and scary, it feels good to practice standing firmly and promote real exchanges between people.
I highly encourage you to notice how you’re asserting your truth out loud. Does it align with you, your understanding, and your truth?