Say it Straight, Simple and with a Smile
By Lois Barth, Human Development Expert, Speaker, Coach and Author of Courage to SPARKLE
Life is Always Talking, Make Sure You’re Listening.” – A LOIS-ism (lessons, opportunities, insights and solutions)
Last week, I was nursing a cold and dowsing myself with Breathe Deep, Yogi Tea. Of course, being a motivational speaker, I would buy tea where each bag has its own motivational quote! Sometimes, you just can’t leave the business, even when you’re under the weather.
This one really popped out for me: “Say it Straight, Simple and with a Smile,” which inspired this post.
Nice on paper. Not always so easy to do!
Maybe you were like me, who was one of those see something say something, “she’s 5 going on 50,” kind of kids. You got tons of laughs, accolades, and attention for your quick wit and insightful observations. But then scolded when your “blurts” revealed the shadows of the family secrets or made adults look at something they’d prefer to avoid. If you were like me, you may have been told, “I think you’re imagining things. Maybe you’re being “super sensitive.” Funny how one does a slice and dice when faced with uncomfortable “truths.”
With each “super sensitive/imagining things”comment I shrunk just a little smaller and my brazen, confident self started to get buried. I started to hide my SPARKLE.
I know I’m not alone. I hear it from the better part of the 800+ clients I’ve worked with over the last decade and the thousands of folks I’ve spoken to. It’s especially rampant for women. We get the message, loud and clear: don’t be “too” (strong, smart, aggressive, out spoken, opinionated, independent — the list goes on). Most of us contract, in the backdrop of these messages, and start living in the shadows of our true self.
The challenge is that years, often decades, later, the “too much” conversation is rattling around in our heads. On top of that is the double standard that exists for men and women around acceptable communication. Without realizing it, we are literally “tap dancing around our power,” as opposed to owning it.
I love helping people, and especially women, use language to own their power, ask for what they want, and advocate for themselves. A big part of that is to eliminate what are called “qualifiers,” (maybe, perhaps, could, etc.) that undermine their authority, intelligence, and expertise, and can hurt them both personally and professionally. I feel so passionate about this topic that I created a video, called “Don’t Tap Dance Around Your Power…Own it!
So, in the spirit of Yogi Tea wisdom, and my own LOIS-IZED version of how to “Say it Straight, Simple and with a Smile,” here’s a four-step process to do just that. This process can be used in any situation, from having a difficult conversation, asking for a raise, requesting a favor, to just having a heart to heart.
- Write out what you want to communicate – You may say, “I shouldn’t have to write out a script,” well sorry, I disagree. An actor who is playing a role has a script and you need one too. Why? Because you are stepping into a new role, building a new skill, or developing a new aspect of yourself and writing down what you want to say, is a great tool, to start doing that. If it was so easy, you would’ve already have done it already.
Writing out what you want to say gives you clarity. Plus it reveals a lot. For example, if you can’t distill what you want to say, in a few simple well-crafted sentences, perhaps you are still unclear. Or if you feel the need to either circle around it or to overstate it, clearly you’re having some emotional charge. All of which is totally normal, and common. Better to see it on the page, then have it come out of your mouth and have the person’s eyes glaze or worst, get defensive.
2. Practice saying it a few times – You will have a better idea how it lands and how you feel saying it if you allow yourself to say the words out loud. You can even call a friend and say, ‘Hey can we do a mock conversation?’ My clients ALWAYS balk because of all their nervousness when we do a dry run, and that’s fabulous. Because, guess what? Your nervous system doesn’t know the difference between a dress rehearsal and opening night. The more you do it, the more your system will become acclimated, so when you do have the talk it will feel less daunting.
3. Keep simplifying the language – The more conversational it is, the more the other person can take it in. Trade in your two-dollar words (which is difficult; I know I LOVE mine) for real human speak, from your heart and your truth, while still knowing your audience.
4. It’s all about delivery – We’ve all heard, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” Is that ever true? Years ago, I worked with a relationship coaching client. There was a guy in her social group that really liked her, but she kept deflecting his overtures even though she liked him too! The challenge was their age difference was considerable (he was much younger). Given that she had a very small window left for her childbearing years, she “assumed” he wasn’t on her timetable to “eventually” (in the not so distant future) start a family, if things were to work out.
Urging her to avoid the perils of assumption, I suggested she have the conversation. We worked together to develop her “script,” but the big piece was going to be about the delivery (no pun intended) of how she would say it. It ended up something like this:
I would really like to go out with you too. However, since we are in such different junctures in our life and I would need to start a family in the next few years, I didn’t think it made sense to accept your lovely invitations. Rather than assuming, I thought it best to have a conversation about it, to understand more about where you are in your life.
At first, she freaked out a bit, worried he’d think she was needy or desperate. Ironic, since she doesn’t have a needy desperate bone in her body. I reassured her that nothing conveys more than the warmth of a smile and true intent for open dialogue; both of which she had in abundance. She did just that. Ten years and 2 kids later, it seems to have worked out quite well.
Common Sense. Uncommonly Practiced.
Say it Straight, Simple, and with a Smile.
Where in your life, or your organization could you use some support to communicate more effectively and powerfully to empower yourself while serving the people in your life? Email Lois to set up a time to “tawk,” to discuss how to be a more effective leader through the use of powerful communication.
Looking to support your team in bringing their most alive and energized self to their work? Bring Lois in to speak at your next event.
Lois Barth is a human development expert, motivational speaker, coach, and thrilled to have delivered her first ‘book child,’ “Courage to Sparkle.” She champions women to share their brilliance and to live an authentic life. She speaks at women’s conferences all over the country and has been quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fitness, Weight Watchers, and MSNBC.com to name a few.