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Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say


by Dr. Jackie Black
Part 1 in a 4-part series on boundaries in relationships


Most of us know how to speak.

Many of us have never learned how to communicate.

Recognize that clear, accurate and understandable verbal and non-verbal language is essential for marriage, committed relationships, friendships, business relationships and virtually all other kinds of relationships.

To communicate clearly and effectively, you must understand there are two sides to every communication – the one who sends the communication and the one who receives it.

Likewise, there are two methods of communication – verbal and non-verbal communication.

Remember, just because you may not be speaking, doesn’t mean you are not saying something. Often, not saying something can be more important than saying something.

Avoid the five behaviors that don’t work:

  1. Justifying
  2. Blaming
  3. Being a Victim
  4. Seeking Approval
  5. Hinting By Asking Questions

These behaviors cause confusion and misunderstandings and never move a conversation forward to a mutually satisfying conclusion.

Another important and highly effective strategy for effective communication is to speak from the “I” position.

“I” language is very useful for helping you assertively and accurately express what is going on inside you and express scary or negative feelings or thoughts to someone else.

An “I’ message has three parts:

  • A feeling or a request;
  • A factual description of the situation or event; and
  • The impact, effect or result it has/had on you.

Be direct, use simple and clear words and be specific.

Complaining is a useful communication tool. Yes, a tool.

Complaining is a healthy way to convey your grievances and objections when your desires and needs go unmet.

Request a change after you have concisely aired your I-message complaint.

  • I need
  • I want
  • I would prefer
  • When I heard you say X, I felt/thought/experienced…
  • When I saw you do X, I felt/thought/experienced…

Avoid criticizing another person. Period!

Criticizing is a desire expressed with negative energy. Criticizing is complaining gone awry.

Express your angry feelings respectfully and responsibly. Anger is a normal and natural feeling state. The impulse to attack is hostility, and the behavior of attacking is violence. Avoid these unproductive and hurtful behaviors at all costs!

Remember, only YOU can make it happen!

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