… 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!