How to be confident & speak your mind in relationships
Do you ever get frustrated with yourself wondering how you get yourself into awkward and weird or difficult situations? It might be at work, with friends, family. And then you find yourself dreading having to that awkward or hard conversation?
Today I wanted to talk to you all about the issue of being afraid to speak up. This isn’t just for the married folk, (although it can be super helpful for you guys, too!) but for relationships in general. If you want to get the background on my own transformation from being a timid introvert to a confident introvert, read this post I wrote a few months ago: How to be an Introvert AND Great with People.
It’s only as awkward as you make it
What I’ve seen wayyyy too many times is someone coming to me (both on the blog and in person) asking me how to handle their difficult or awkward situation. They will come to me, give me the lowdown, and then ask, “So what should I say to them?”
And then I ask, “Well… why don’t you tell them what you told me?”
The thing is, I think we tend to psych ourselves out way too much over the perfect words to say or the fact that the situation is awkward. Here are a couple tips on how to get through an awkward conversation:
- Admit the awkwardness. It’ll only be worse if you try to ignore it. Say something like, “So this might be awkward, but I really don’t want it to be.” Or, “I don’t know if this is weird, I don’t really think it is, but…”
- Play off the awkward. This might sound contradictory to my last point, but it’s not. Here’s why: Just as in my examples above, I admit the awkwardness, but I quickly move past it to get to the issue. Admitting to the awkwardness of the situation won’t magically make it go away. You’ll have to show that the weirdness doesn’t phase you, and you’re just trying to get to the bottom of the issue.
- Make the conversation short and sweet. And I mean that literally. Be sure to make your point, let the other person be heard, be kind, and then resolve the issue without dragging it out as best you can. A hugely easy way to get past awkward conversations is to quickly address the issue, don’t make it a big deal, be honest, and then moooove on!
Ask them what they’re thinking
Many times we can totally psyche ourselves out by just assuming the worst! Here’s a conversation I had at my work just yesterday:
My coworker/supervisor was telling me some changes she’d like to see around the office and how she’d looking to crack down on some office policies/what-have-you this spring. The old me would have thought, “Oh gosh, she’s implying that I’m totally failing at my job and she secretly hates me.” BUT the new me said “Ok great! Are there any areas that you think I could work on specifically?”
See instead of assuming that she thought I was failing at my job, I asked her what she thought I could do better. That way I know exactly what she’s thinking and what her expectations are. Not to mention it shows that I care about my job and want to do it well!
This doesn’t just apply to work, either!
I ask my husband the same question, and he asks me, too! We also ask, “How could I have done that better?” Knowing what someone is thinking and knowing their exact expectations takes so much anxiety out of tons of would-be difficult situations! It also shows that you care about the other person’s thoughts and expectations which says a lot about your character and honestly- it just makes you look good 🙂
This step can be kind of scary, because you’re making yourself vulnerable to criticism, but if your aim is to improve, and if you’re in a relationship that is safe, it can only be constructive! I’ve heard some answers before that have stung a little but, but looking back, hearing those answers have allowed me to improve as a person, wife, and employee! Lots of times you’ll receive good feedback too!
Be open from the beginning
Here’s one way to avoid step 1 altogether! Just like how knowing the other person’s expectations is important, it’s just as important that they know your expectations! Here’s an example of how this can go terribly wrong, although you can probably think of your own!
You get a new job. Your hours are set, 9-5 but it doesn’t take long for your boss to start asking you to stay late to work on projects around the office. At first you let it go, thinking you just got this job and you kinda just want to to what it takes to be well-liked, even if that means sucking up a little and staying late when you don’t have to. Eventually, giving you extra work at the end of the day becomes a habit and you become resentful towards your boss and you think, “This is not what I signed up for…”.
What you could have is, after the first time your boss asked you to work late, tell them that you want to work on the projects, but you have obligations at home and you really need to leave when the workday is over. If you find yourself too far gone and you’re in the point of resenting your boss and workplace, it’s time to have that awkward/not so awkward conversation in step 1.
Knowing that that person has a set standard of values/morals/expectations
This is important when it comes to confrontational situations. Argh those can be the hardest ones to deal with… I actually wrote a whole post on how to get the best out of confrontation here! Ideally, your goal in confrontation should be to bring a person back to an agreed upon set of morals/values/expectations. For Christians, we use the Bible and Christ’s life to set our expectations. Others will have their own set of morals and expectations. The things you’ll have to realize is, the confrontation will never work if their morals/values/expectations are not the same as the ones you’re holding them to. You first need to agree on your expectations, and when they wander away from those, then you can confront.
I can’t say enough how important is is to show that you care about the person you’re confronting. Showing them that you care will completely change the way the conversation goes. Also, it should be very clear that your motives are to help, rather than make a point. That being said, knowing that that person in your life is not living up to expectations can give a lot of confidence to say what needs to be said.
Here’s an example of how that can go in a personal relationship:
Your significant other comes home from work and is grumpy and frankly, kind of just being a butt from the get go. To address this, you can say something like, “Hey, maybe you had a hard day at work today, in which case I’m sure you might be stressed out, but it’s really not ok to come home and act like this. If you need some time alone that’s fine. Or if you want to talk about it, I’m here too. But let’s check the attitude at the door.” Maybe phrase that last part a little nicer. Up to you.
A key point is to not assume that the person you’re confronting is simply an awful person. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Ask yourself, or them, why they’re acting the way they’re acting. Knowing some background can make all the difference in how you react to someone’s bad attitude or hurtful actions. Once you’ve done that, be sure to follow through and address the problem. Don’t give excuses for why they’re acting the way they’re acting. Sadly, I see this in a lot of manipulative and/or abusive relationships. The partner will always find an excuse for their significant other’s actions. Instead, after you give them the benefit of the doubt and put their attitude into context, address the issue and remind them of the values and the standards you both agree on. Don’t be afraid to hold them to a standard and don’t lower the bar. Yes, forgive. Yes, be kind. But always look to restore and fix where they missed the mark.
Well, I hope this helps some of you awkward people like me out there! Let me know your anti-awkward advice in the comments below and share this post with an awkward friend!
These are really great tips making my friend read this asap.
Great article, Chelsea! I wish people (myself included) would incorporate these into their daily decisions more often. It’s amazing how much smoother things go when you address awkward situations and conflicts this way.
Alyssa Nicole says
This is so perfectly timed. My Fiance is not my favorite person right now because of some issues with communication and respecting my feelings – I’m the kind of person who is terrified of confronting him because I don’t want to fight but at the same time, I feel like going crazy when I can’t get the things I need from our relationship. I’m going to check out the confrontation link you had too. I’m hoping these will help me figure out how to best bring up everything with him. Your blog is amazing. <3
Dawn Vinson says
I love this article! It is so empowering for people who HATE confrontation and have a hard time standing up for themselves. These are great strategies for all of our relationships.
I love this. Thanks