Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.
Relationships in our lives encompass family, friends, and others.
It’s time to address a subject most of us try very hard to avoid.
I’m not talking about the, “Hey little girl, want a piece of candy” kind of strangers. You don’t have to talk to them, just call the police.
This is more like the people at a new job, maybe people at a party, interacting with customers and the general, everyday population of planet Earth.
You can always ask them to move if you don’t want to deal with them.
They don’t listen.
Adulting correctly takes a level of proficiency in all three areas (family, friends & others), especially if you hope to lead a happy life. In Adulting Is Hard? Make It Easier With 3 Simple Steps, I mentioned that part of this process is making ourselves vulnerable and knowing when to make changes in our lives.
But what about the actual skills of communication?
When interacting with strangers or even associates in the workplace, we don’t have the same familiarity as we do with friends and family. Yet these same people have a direct or indirect influence in on our lives.
This can be intimidating and cause stress that doesn’t have to exist.
Adulting Correctly Is About Understanding Your Weaknesses
We are social creatures by nature.
Even introverts have a need for others, they just play their relationships closer to the chest.
This is a good thing. It helps us make connections, build bonds, allows us to reproduce and to feel safe in our environment.
I don’t mean to sounds so sterile in this conversation, but there are logistical reasons for our nature.
There are also weaknesses you should be aware of.
If you struggle with communicating with others, especially outside your familiar circles, two common reasons are:
Being concerned what others think, and;
Putting emotions over truth.
“But I don’t give a damn what other people think!” you tell yourself.
What a load of crap. Of course you care.
We all care what others think, at least to some degree.
We care when we get pulled over by a cop, when we want to ask someone out on a date, when we want a raise at work and the list goes on.
So cut the shit. You care.
If nothing else, you care because you want to be liked.
What’s wrong with wanting to be liked?
Not a blasted thing.
It’s only a concern when you care to the point that you sacrifice who you are to gain the approval of another. When you lose focus of your integrity, honesty, compassion, or other personal characteristics and we diminish who we are.
We not only cheat ourselves but the people around us, from experiencing what we could have offered to an interaction or relationship.
The other side of this coin is caring so much about what someone thinks that you value their feelings over the truth.
This is something that turns my stomach.
You see it happening all over the news, especially across mainstream media. People are making their feelings the most important issue and using it as leverage over others who have contrary opinions and views.
It’s insane and frankly, stupid as hell.
Just to be clear, adulting correctly doesn’t mean you should be unkind or act without care. There’s no reason you should actively be a jerk or an unfeeling robot, but if it’s a choice between principles and how someone feels? Say what needs to be said (tactfully if you can) and let the chips fall where they may.
People may choose to be offended, sure—but the truth is what allows for clear and concise communication.
Truth trumps feelings. That’s my personal rule.
3 Things That Keep You From Adulting Correctly
There’s one topic I don’t see covered much in the grownup world and that’s balance.
I’m not talking about your physical health, the time between work, family or friends…but rather balance when it comes to the relationships we have.
The give and take aspects of life.
You have to be careful in how you influence and allow others to influence you. Here are three things to watch for in both your relationships and everyday interactions with others, because they could stifle positive growth.
You’re Too Quiet.
I know, that sounds odd, huh.
You’re thinking, “People want me to shut up!”
If you’re anything like me, that may be true, but keeping your mouth shut could be a bad thing.
In my early 20’s, I was deeply engaged in a few classes I was taking. I’d also quickly developed a reputation for speaking out, being bold, and sharing my unorthodox thinking.
Basically, I was voicing what everyone else seemed to be thinking, they just didn’t have the balls to say it.
One day and I can’t remember exactly when this happened, but I stopped speaking up.
A couple people I respected made the side comment that I talked too much. They didn’t know I’d heard them and as a person who tries very hard to be encouraging and uplifting—it hurt to think I was doing the opposite by speaking out.
So I stopped participating and simply listened instead.
It wasn’t long before I was pulled aside by my teacher. She was overly concerned and asked why I wasn’t making comments in class.
I explained the reasons and the comments that had been made about me.
“Don’t you dare let that stop you,” she scoffed, almost hotly. “You never know when your word will empower others to be more than they are. If nothing else, you’ll give others permission to be themselves by setting the example. Leave the ignorant to themselves and be who you are meant to be.”
Don’t retreat just because someone doesn’t like what you have to say. You may be the spark or light to help another out of the darkness.
Assuming you understand.
How many times have you been engaged in an argument because the person you’re talking to just doesn’t ‘get’ it?
Have you considered that it might be you who doesn’t understand?
How often have you engaged in a conversation and not truly listened? Instead, you wait with bated breath to jump in on ‘your turn’ with a reply/rebuttal/countermeasure, ignoring what’s actually being said!
Don’t feel guilty, most of us (if not all) have done this at one time or another. I know I have.
Good news is, it’s a habit we can correct and it starts with having a basic respect for others and asking questions.
Adulting correctly doesn’t assume you understand, even if you feel certain that you do. Make sure by clarifying with a question:
“I just want to make sure I understand you correctly. Do you mean [insert what you think the person has said to you]? Did I understand that right?”
Wait for their reply. Don’t interrupt. Be in the moment and listen. By doing this, you open the door of communication and allow for correction and guidance.
Don’t be afraid of being wrong. This is about caring enough to make sure you get it right and you’ll gain the confidence and respect of others when you do.
Be honest and upfront about bad behavior.
Sounds simple, right?
Not when you care about the person…or they’re intimidating.
This can be an overly dominating friend, parent, family member, perhaps a boss, client/customer or even a stranger. The point is, things can get far worse if you ignore or pretend that toxic behavior is acceptable.
I remember back when I used to work designing custom kitchens, there was a certain contractor who would show up whenever my boss wasn’t around.
He seemed to be a decent guy in most respects, but he’d barge in at odd times and harass the receptionist. She’d always try to help him, but he’d loom over her desk, snapping and growling, demanding priority treatment with his jobs until she was close to tears.
One day I stepped out of the back room and approached this contractor with a smile.
“Excuse me, sir,” I interrupted, pulling his attention away from the receptionist, “I think it’s time for you to leave.”
Both the contractor and the young woman looked at me confused, but I maintained the smile on my face.
“You seem to have concerns that deserve specific attention. The only one who can truly answer those questions is my employer, not the receptionist. So why don’t you make an appointment and I’ll walk you to your truck.”
The man glared at me. “I’m here to get this sh*t taken care of now, so…”
I cut him off. “You misunderstand me, sir. I don’t like how you’re treating my fellow employee. I’m not really interested in why you’re here. What I’m doing is giving you a choice to either leave peacefully, or allow me to help you leave. Making an appointment with my employer is optional.”
Challenging people fill this world and you will have to interact with some of them at one time or another. Don’t lie about or ignore a person’s bad behavior, especially when they’re being difficult on purpose.
Unless you’re avoiding actual violence it’s almost always a mistake not to challenge bad behavior.
Here’s a simple truth: many people don’t realize they’re being difficult.
This is especially true when it comes to people who care about you.
By the way, if you say you don’t have any difficult people to deal with, that’s because you ARE the difficult person.
On the other hand, I think it should be mentioned that we should take responsibility for interactions. If we have been out of line, we should say so and if we’ve harmed another, apologize.
Doesn’t matter if it was intentional.
Adulting correctly means showing class. If it’s clear you’ve acted out and acted in a toxic manner, strive to make amends.
Oh, and the contractor?
Yeah, he left without making an appointment.