This is my area of expertise, to leave nothing unsaid. The “diplomatically” part is much more of a challenge. It is not a strong suit, to be candid. I’ve gotten myself into trouble by not recognizing when another approach might be better. And as many times as I’ve said too much or said it without enough diplomacy, I still keep saying things. I wonder if I’m alone in this challenge.
My own case of Hoof in Mouth
Several years ago, my sister-in-law was taking care of one of our horses along with her own. She bought hay for all of them and I was writing a check for our part. Something in the math didn’t add up for me. I thought about it and tried to make it make sense, but I couldn’t. So I asked. I walked her through my understanding of the breakdown and asked her what I was missing. She stared at me. She looked embarrassed. I tried to help by telling her that it was no big deal, I could just write a new check.
That’s when Dani stepped in and quietly said no, it was correct. I didn’t understand. I quickly started to explain my math again. I was sure she had just missed it. She put her hand on mine firmly and looked into my eyes. “No, it’s right,” she said firmly. I finally got the hint and said nothing more. When I asked her about it later, she explained she was paying more because her sister was doing all of the work.
Why didn’t she just say something?
What is it that stops us from doing this? It’s a genuine question because I don’t experience this hesitation myself. I can only guess she didn’t want to make me feel bad or risk that I would argue against it. The whole thing probably felt very confrontational to her and she just wanted it to be over as quickly as possible.
I could have taken a different approach. I could have first asked Dani to confirm my understanding without bringing it up to my SIL at all. The problem is I didn’t realize it would be so uncomfortable for her.
I *know* I’m not alone on this. Right?!?
Often, we don’t realize how uncomfortable another person is with even mild confrontation or conflict until it’s too late.
But it is not solely my responsibility.
Even when a conversation is uncomfortable, speaking up for yourself is critical. When you don’t, it can have long-term effects on the relationship.
Where do you draw the line on speaking up for yourself? Are there situations where you simply won’t? Are those defined by topic or by who is involved? What are the ways around that so you don’t feel taken advantage of or not heard?