Say What You Mean And Mean What You Say

When you hear this statement, it sounds like you are saying the same thing twice, but you are not.  In raising my children, this was my personal mantra that I followed so my boys always knew they could count on my words being the truth.  If I said it, they knew I meant it, and I made sure my words were clearly stated and accurately expressed my wishes. 

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For example, if I needed my sons to clean their room, I would clearly express what I expected of them including what would happen if they did not do it.  That is saying what you mean.  Then if they did not come through with their chore, I would follow through with the consequence without attaching it to a lot of drama.  That is meaning what you say.  I didn’t say it if I didn’t mean it. 

The important thing to remember is to be careful with the things you say so you can follow through if needed.  Parents who tell their children they will be grounded for a year, for example, are setting themselves up for failure.  That is very difficult to follow through on so you shouldn’t say it in the first place.  I have heard parents say even worse things to their children, and though they are small, the youngest child can easily tell that the parent will not be able to follow through on the threat.  

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”

Anthony Robbins

This adage is useful in all aspects of life.  It is extremely important in our adult relationships, our professional relationships, in addition to our relationships with children.  

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When speaking to our friends or partners it is important to say what we mean.  This is an indication of effective communication.  I have recently heard a different version of this saying that says, “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it meanly.”

These added words are critical for building relationships.  I am sure there are many times in our past when we can think of an argument that ensued over poor communication.  Sometimes it isn’t easy to vocalize what is in our mind in a non-threatening, or kind manner but it is necessary if we are to have a relationship with the other person that builds trust and understanding. 

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

Mark Twain

Something else to consider here is that there are times that you maybe shouldn’t say what you mean.  A good example of this is when I would ask my husband, “Does this bathing suit make me look fat?”  Being a nice guy (and a smart man, LOL), he would always say, “No, of course not.”  This type of situation is a “No-win” and should be avoided.  

Things to consider to build relationships by communicating effectively:

  • What do you hope to gain by saying it?  What is your purpose? Do you want behavior to change or to just convey a message?
  • Make sure you are choosing the correct time to have the conversation.  If you know it will be in-depth, allow ample time so neither of you are left hanging.
  • Stick to “I” messages instead of saying “You.” When expressing your thoughts, say things like, “I felt upset” instead of “You shouldn’t do that.”
  • Try and put yourself in the other person’s shoes before expressing your feelings.  Sometimes this helps to understand the motives of the other person.
  • Remember that effective communicating is difficult and a skill that needs to be developed over our entire lives.  

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

Peter Drucker

The importance of carefully constructing important messages cannot be understated.  The words you choose, your tone of voice, your inflections, etc are all interpreted by the listener. Many times the message we wish to portray is not what is picked up by the other person.  Hence, there is a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding in any relationship.  If you care enough to continually work on it, your relationships will flourish and you will feel fulfillment.

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