We all know situations in which we find it difficult to address certain issues. Sometimes we hope that things will take care of themselves so that we can somehow get away with our procrastination strategy. As a client once said to me about his boss, “He’s right and I’m at peace.” Often, however, this only makes the hump under the carpet bigger and bigger. Then the speaking out loud eventually turns into yelling or everything has been swallowed down to such an extent that psychosomatic symptoms are imminent. Of course, this is also a matter of personality or behaviour learned in the family of origin. And there are big differences between the various cultures as to how loudly and openly addressing problems is evaluated. In other words, I am referring primarily to the application in the Western, rather German-speaking environment with which I am familiar. An English client once told me: “If I hadn’t known that you were German, I wouldn’t have let you coach me. And that was because she found my feedback too direct at first.
Personality type and/or learned behaviour?
According to current knowledge, the well-known predisposition-environment problem, i.e. the question of whether psychological traits are genetically inherited or develop through socialisation processes, is answered with approx. 50/50%. As a LINC Personality Profiler Coach, I would like to talk about the so called Big Five. With the Big Five, five independent personality dimensions were found by factor analysis on the basis of over 18,000 terms, which remain largely stable from around the age of 20. They are considered one of the best-researched models for assessing human personality. Why is this of interest in this context? Because one of the Big Five parameters is the well-known polarity between introversion and extraversion. And it is usually easier for extraverted people to say things out loud. Of course, this doesn’t state anything about the depth and appropriateness of what is said, but the hurdle is lower for the time being. And now everyone can check for themselves whether their disposition, in one direction or another, was rather supported or rather inhibited in their family of origin.
Was it more opportune to keep one’s mouth shut or was there perhaps a weekly family conference where everyone could get involved? How was it with you?
Men and women communicate differently
An article in the German newspaper FAZ in 2013 had the headline: “Men want solutions, women want to talk”. And the latter are then often perceived as annoying and disturbing. While men often want to express connection through silence, women want to establish relationship through conversation. When men have problems, they prefer to deal with them alone and don’t want to talk about them; women, on the other hand, want to discuss problems in conversations. It all sounds rather cliché, but there is some truth to it. As a management trainer, I experienced this actually many years ago, because in addition to mixed seminar groups, I also worked with all-male and all-female groups. (The fact that the male groups consisted of managers and the female groups of secretaries was and is a topic for the gender equality debate and would go too far here). Much has been and continues to be published about the gender-specific styles of communication . A well-known author in this field is Deborah Tannen, an American sociolinguist, with her bestseller: You Just Don’t Understand. Women and Men in Conversation (New York 1990). Or in the German-speaking world, for example, the books of the management consultant Peter Modler, who writes in his book “das Arroganzprinzip” (Frankfurt a- Main 2012) that he finds it obvious as a “native speaker” to support women in better understanding male communication styles and reacting to them.
How important is authenticity?
To start with I think authenticity is paramount, because without it, there is no real dialogue, no real relationship. The word “authentic” comes from the Old Greek and means that something is vouched for as genuine, as original. It becomes authentic and feels authentic to the other person when our inner thinking, feeling and willing are in harmony with our outer behaviour. The point of speaking out loud is that it never has to be about complete openness. I like to quote Ruth COHN:
Everything that is said should be true; not everything that is true should be said.(FARAU/COHN, 1999, p. 280).
). I often hear during a coaching session: “I can’t say that to him/to her!” When I then ask: “And why not? What exactly would you like to say and how? Then it becomes clear how much has piled up in the meantime and that you really can’t express it like that in most of the cases. This is where I think non-violent communication, Marshall B. Rosenberg’s widely known concept, should come into play, in order to be able to remain authentic and at the same time not hurt the other person. There are countless publications on how to deal with what Rosenberg called the wolf or giraffe language, that is the hurtful and the empathetic.
There are 4 steps that make it easier to speak out loud. First, it is useful for me to define inwardly who do I judge having the bigger “problem”. If it is me, then I express myself loudly and clearly. If it seems to be the other person, then I start to listen actively and inquire more in depth.
The 4 steps of speaking out loud
- What specifically happened, what facts are there, what o(riginal) tone was spoken?
- Which of my needs did not come to be heard in this situation?
- And what feelings does this lack trigger in me?
- What concrete action am I asking the other person(s) to take?
Are you already fit, or what are you doing to become fit?
And another hint for long-time NVC users: In order to avoid the danger of blaming others for one’s own feelings, I have got into the habit of letting the concerns/needs have their say first.It takes some practice before this way of speaking becomes second nature and does not seem artificial
Speaking out loud to others helps to prevent problems and conflicts from accumulating over a longer period of time to give my counterpart the opportunity to understand what is going on inside me, and to make solutions possible. Speaking out loud does not mean that I am automatically in the right with everything I say that my perspective is the only true and right one and that my assertiveness should have something to do with my voice volume.
What have you wanted to address for a long time and have not yet done so? And what would it be like to finally tackle it now?
Good luck with it.
Yours, Harriet Kretschmar