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Saying What Needs to be Said

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Now more than ever it seems that we need to find ways of saying the things that need to be said. And doing that in a way that is both kind and honest. As we say in coaching, speaking with backbone and heart. In this world that is so very uncomfortable with being uncomfortable, that’s hard to do.

It’s my belief that we all need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Meaning, let’s lean in to tricky situations instead of running away from them. Let’s “turn and face” the challenges we encounter instead of turning away.

Saying the hard things is one way of leaning into discomfort.

When I was younger, I had no idea how to deal with the challenges in my life. At work, unable to state my needs and have healthy boundaries, my resentment and unease would build until I either blew my top, cut and run, or both. I burned a lot of bridges.

Same thing with friendships. After my divorce 20+ years ago, I had a series of broken friendships. At the time, I had no idea what was going on. Now, I can see that after years of my wants and needs not being noticed or honored by my former spouse, I lost all tolerance for any kind of behavior that made me feel unseen and unheard. In two instances, I had friends who only seemed to be interested in talking about themselves and their challenges. So, I burned both of those friendships to the ground, sabotaged from within so I didn’t have to tolerate being invisible within the friendship. It took me years to understand that’s what had happened. I now see that these friendships were mismatches for where we were in our lives. Sometimes good people just don’t match up, and that should be okay.

Now, however, I have developed the internal resources and relational skills to state my needs without being attached to the outcome. What do I mean by that? I know how to state what I need in the moment and then be open to what the other party or parties needs as well. Together, then, we can figure out how we can both dance with our needs, finding ways to prioritize ourselves as well as our shared space.

Notice how I said “I know how”? Yes, I do know how to do it, but the recovering people-pleaser in me still finds this difficult. A good friend recently sent me the Leadership Circle’s description of courageous authenticity. Here’s how I understand it: that in order to be truly authentic, you must find the courage to say what needs to be said, work through the conflict, speak truth to power, name the unnamables. That’s scary, which is why courage plays a key role.

When you say what needs to be said, you risk whoever is on the receiving end not liking what they hear. You risk losing the relationship. But, here’s the thing: you can’t control how someone is going to receive something. They have agency to make that choice. In the past, I chose to remain silent. I thought that it must not be worth it to take such a risk.

Now, however, I’m finding that not saying what needs to be said, not honoring who I am and what I need has significant consequences. I find that carrying the unsaid burden is exhausting. I can’t sleep. It erodes my self-worth. It’s so very heavy. I create suffering through the psycho-game that follows the pain.

When I do have the courage to state my needs, share how I receive something, or stand up for myself, I find that a delicious freedom and lightness of being follows. In the courageous authenticity, there is liberation. And by leaning into courage and honoring myself and my needs, the suffering I experience related to the situation is short lived.

I know I’m not alone. Engaging in saying what needs to be said in an adult, conscious way is a skill we all need in the world right now. What I mean is that we need not burn it all down in order to say what needs to be said. Instead, with skills and an open heart, we can actually take relationships to the next level by exposing the difficulty found in a relationship. Spoiler alert! Every relationship has difficulty. Opening a space for deepening relationships seems like a huge pay-off to me. Of course, it won’t always turn out that way. Not everyone can hear courageous authenticity, but more and more, it seems like a risk worth taking.

1 Comment

Simply beautiful.

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