[Mind of your own] The art of the uncomfortable
How many uncomfortable things have you left unsaid?
Some will be whirring endlessly in your mind and preventing you from focusing on anything else. Others will be lying just under the surface, waiting for a moment of reflection to gain strength. Anger, hurt, pain, injustice – all of us feel these emotions but most of us tend to suppress them. The reasons are for not speaking out are many – fear of confrontation, fear of consequences or sometimes just an inability to articulate your feelings coherently.
Anger, hurt, pain, injustice – all of us feel these emotions but most of us tend to suppress them. The reasons for not speaking out are many – fear of confrontation, fear of consequences or sometimes just an inability to articulate your feelings coherently.
Get them out
The thing to recognise is that the more these ‘unsaid words’ fester, the more powerful they become and the more they torment you. To loosen their grip on your mind, you need to face them squarely and only then will they begin fade away.
Can you make a list?
- Start by writing down the important people in your life, at home and at work. These should be people who have a significant impact on your life. Don't list more than six to start with.
- Look at each name on the list. Think about that person for 60 seconds without doing anything else. Think about the last few conversations you had with her / him. Is there something uncomfortable you wanted to say but didn't? Write it down.
- Next, carefully and intelligently, think about the possible consequences if you were to say what you have suppressed. What are the different possibilities?
Let's take a case most of us will be familiar with – you feel you have been unfairly treated by your boss.
Imagine that you seek a meeting with your boss and present your case (in a reasonable manner). What are the possible consequences?
Your boss now knows how you feel and:
1. Will lose her / his temper and sack you
2. Will hold it against you and make your life miserable
3. Will be more considerate in her / his future treatment of you.
If you think that 1 or 2 may happen, then you must accept the situation and come to terms with your feelings. Tell yourself 'I have been unfairly treated but I am not in a position to speak up. I accept this for now but will do my best to be in a stronger place in the future.' Accept also that the need for action lies with you and not your boss.
I can tell you from my experience, however, that often the case is No 3 and most people are very surprised to learn this. We tend to make assumptions about other people without any basis, expecting them to understand what we are feeling even if we haven't expressed it. That's just plain unrealistic.
Constructive, not confrontational
Even if we do speak up, the problem often lies with the way we do it. If you are emotionally charged and incoherent, how will you present your side of the argument in any compelling way?
If you have decided to voice something uncomfortable to someone who plays an important part in your life, go through a logical process before you do it.
- Write down what you are going to say or discuss it with someone you trust.
- Make sure that your point of view is supported by facts
- Practice what you are going to say. Really, I mean this. Sometimes, just hearing your own voice helps you realise what is right and what is wrong.
- Finally, sleep on it. And then, speak your mind, calmly and rationally.
Congratulations, you’ve moved forward
Regardless of whether you speak up or whether you accept your inability to do so, you will have made progress in your journey to gain control over resentment borne from unsaid things. You will also find that you sharpen your intuition about what to say and when to say it.
Write in and tell me if you spoke up about an uncomfortable issue and what happened when you did. Have a brilliant week!