Intercultural Responsiveness

A Blog By Tom Altepeter

Say What You Need To Say

MicrophoneYou better know that in the end
It’s better to say too much
Than to never say what you need to say again

~ John Mayer (“Say”)

I’m used to being very careful with words. Writing is an art, and in a way, words are painted on a canvas, choreographed on a stage, orchestrated to sound a particular way. Selected with purpose, and handled with care, choosing the right words for the right moment can change, can lift, can make all the difference in the world. But, using the wrong words in the wrong way can evoke reactions that diminish, that crush, that eliminate hope where it once was spoken. I’m used to being very careful with words because words are both delicate and dangerous.

Crafting a message requires a gentle touch, with just the right amount of determined pressure. Say too much, and you’ve lost your way, but say too little, and you’ve left incomplete – or perhaps never even stared – the journey required. Balancing communication when interacting with so many different people demands softening or sharpening the edge in just the right way and at just the right moment, all while acknowledging who you are as the messenger.

What if, though, we really did just say precisely what we wanted – even needed – to say? I’m not talking about the tired and misguided thinking around how “all this dadgum political correctness” gets in the way. No, I’m talking more about cutting to the chase, worrying less about taking the edge off, and more about telling it like it is. Would we be better off? Would we feel stronger for saying it? Would we have more clarity by hearing it? Would we start to digest things differently? Would we change for good?

Far too many times, we tend to walk away from a situation wishing we would have thought to say this, that, or the other thing. That one line zinger never seems to come in the moment; rather, it’s only later, most often, that we have this perfect thought that we wish we would have shared. Yet, we don’t return to the situation and address it. And, even when we do, the circumstances can’t be recreated to make that one line zinger actually, well, zing. So, the moment is gone, and we didn’t ever say what we wanted and needed to say – for lack of quick thinking, or courage, or both.

Still, I wonder, though, if it’s not so much that we lost a chance, but rather gained an opportunity.

One Response to “Say What You Need To Say”

  • Kathy Mayer says:

    Well, that is indeed something to ponder. Well-written, well-spoken, and filled with questions. Mmmmppppphhhhh.

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