“Say what you mean…

… and mean what you say.”

It’s an interesting quote pertaining to inter-personal relationships and, while its origins are disputed, my vote goes to Lewis Carroll with a dialogue between the March Hare and Alice!

“Saying what you mean” is fundamental common sense if we want to be understood, and yet so often we do not say what we mean. There will always be a basis for tact and diplomacy, so to express exactly what we are thinking may be inappropriate at times however, there are so many other circumstances where we slip into a vocal detour for no obvious reason.

I might ask you what plans you have for the coming weekend, when what I really need to know is whether you are free to dog sit on Sunday!  “Are you going to England again this year?” could mean “I have a small package to go to England. Would you mind taking it?”  “Are you hungry”? could mean “How about eating early today.”

In those examples, it would seem as if we do not want to approach the situation directly, and so we ask a validating question first. If you are busy all weekend, then I won’t ask you to dog sit. If you are not going to England this year, then there’s no point in mentioning my small package. If you are not hungry etc. etc.

While these habits can have merit, they generally overlook an important aspect. You are not giving your friends the opportunity to say “My weekend plans are flexible so yes, I can dog sit!” or “I’m not doing England this year, but my sister is. Would you like me to ask her…..” and “I’m not really hungry right now, but I can always eat!”

Saying what you mean will not only express your thoughts more clearly, but may also present opportunities that would otherwise have never been considered.

“Mean what you say” is very different in that it establishes some key personality traits to all those who interact with you.  I see this as very similar to child raising in the  context  of establishing boundaries. Children need to know where the boundaries are, and the repercussions if those lines are crossed. This is nothing more than preparing them for the “real world” where, if they choose to ignore the laws of the country, there will be consequences.

Saying what you mean is an integral part of any relationship because it establishes a level of credibility to whatever you say. If you always do what you say you are going to do, then while there will be those who may not agree with you, everybody who knows you can be assured that you will follow through. Isn’t that really what we would all like from our friends?

Would you like your friends to talk in riddles such that you have to second guess what they are asking, or would you prefer the direct approach? If somebody tells us that they can help with (whatever), then wouldn’t we all like to believe that it will be so?

As noted earlier, there are always going to be circumstances where tact and diplomacy are essential but, as a general rule, doesn’t “Say what you mean… and when what you say” make so much sense? We should all do it more often!

Just thinking!


37 thoughts on ““Say what you mean…

  1. I agree, but I find a flaw in some of your examples; in the weekend/dog-sitting scenario, there’s more pressure on someone if asked directly. Asking if someone is free first gets them off the hook if their plans are semi-flexible and they want to be a good friend, but they really don’t want to dog-sit.

    However, one of the places where “saying what you mean” is 100% absolutely imperative is when you are working with animals. They can’t answer questions, but rather give replies to what you ask of them. If what you ask is confusing, the response you get will be confusing too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry Molly, but we are going to disagree on this! If I ask somebody if they are free, and they say yes… so I follow through with the request, then they are now pressured because they have already admitted to no commitments. If I ask them directly however, they can “create” a prior commitment if they so wish. In addition to that, I find it basic courtesy, and a sign of respect to be direct rather than play games. That is certainly the way I would like to be treated.


  2. Oops! I must admit to just a little bit of manipulation, just a little hint here and there, when I want a special favor from my husband … 😃 He usually catches on immediately, but I get what I want eventually! And NO, I am NOT a demanding wife.

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    • Hi Abby – Thanks for your Comment, and welcome to my Blog. I hope that, when you get some free time, you will visit again… kick off your shoes… grab a coffee… and wander around. Based on your Blog, I would suggest that my Just Thinking Category could prove of interest to you. Hopefully “see you” again soon! 🙂


  3. I agree, Colin! Don’t let the other one ponder or force them to read thoughts. It has a lot to do with respect and appreciation too! Most of all the closest people deserve a clear communication!

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  4. My mother always did “momspeak.” You had to be tuned in. For example, Macy’s is running a sale meant, I want to go shopping, will you take me. My brothers either were dumb about it or smart like a fox.

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    • So many people do that but, many years ago, I stopped playing that game. I now take things literally and let the other person fathom out how to handle it. If I was confronted with your example – “There’s a sale on at Macy’s!”, then my response might be “Good for them!” or “That’s nice!” or “There are lots of sales on today!” 🙂

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        • That’s an interesting scenario if you think about it. Your Mom would only hint at what she wanted, but then would get mad at those who didn’t “play the game”. If she could have been direct to start with – “Macy’s have a sale on, so would one of you please drive me?”…….. ! 🙂

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            • But technically, that’s exactly what she was doing… but being rather devious (she was circumventing her real goal), and manipulative (relying on somebody offering to take her) about it. “I don’t like asking you for favors so I’ll mention Macy’s sale and hope you will offer to take me…. and I’ll get mad at you if you don’t catch on!”
              I am not intending this to be critical, as so many people “don’t like to bother people”, but that often goes back to self-esteem issues or just plain old upbringing.

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