With the holidays coming up and visits to family and in-laws on the horizon, it might be wise to brush up on your diplomacy skills. That doesn’t mean you have to bite your tongue every time you see your sister-in-law loses it on her kids, but it might be wise to think about how you can speak potentially hurtful opinions to friends and family without inflicting lasting damage.
A recent article offers advice for those who don’t feel comfortable expressing the full weight of their opinion, or as psychologist Marcia Reynolds puts it, for people who shy away from “speaking a truth that hurts”.
According to Reynolds, the first thing you should do before speaking your mind is spend a few minutes in self-reflection, asking yourself what your motives are. If you’re well intentioned and believe the information is necessary to the other person’s positive development then it’s wise to proceed. But if other factors such as jealousy, spite, an inflated sense of your own judgment, or even simple nosiness are somehow mixed up in your desire to say something, check yourself. An ill-intentioned comment will be received poorly, and frankly, you can’t really blame the person for reacting unhappily.
Reynolds also suggests that once you’ve established that you’re well motivated, you should examine your fears about speaking up. What’s the real motive behind your reluctance to say what you think?
Setting the stage for a calm conversation is also important, she says. That means you may want to plan the exchange, taking the time to pick an appropriate day when the other person will be more receptive to such a talk and to select a quiet, comfortable distraction-free location.
A potentially emotional conversation should begin with humility. Reynolds suggests people begin by asking permission.“Before you launch into your speech, you might ask the person if they would be interested and open to some observations you have had,” writes Reynolds.
And most importantly, if the person in question says they’re not interested, be prepared to walk away. You can ask to schedule a more agreeable time to speak, says Reynolds. But in the end, if they don’t want to hear it you can’t force it — and that may be one of the truths that hurts the most.
How do you ensure you get your point across the right way?