I have so much to say that it often overwhelms me. And so I say nothing. Or I don’t know what to say, so I say too much.
But three things have happened over the past week that have lead me to this post.
1. Our daughter came home flushed with excitement by the challenge of writing the classic six-word story assignment derived from Hemingway’s "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
2. I went out West and did three speaking events in as many days, reminding me about the power of presence and of saying less.
3. It seems like the world is ripping apart at the seams, reminding me all that DOES need to be said.
So here is my newest cheat sheet on when to say less. And when to say more.
Eight times it's better to say less:
1. Parenting – Listen more. So so so much more.
2. Coaching – My job as a coach is not to advise. It’s to ask questions that invite you to find the keys to your massive capacity yourself. My job is to make my job obsolete.
3. Sitting with someone in their grief - While the silence can feel oppressive and it’s clear that you mean well, it is untrue when say that you know “just how you feel”. No one knows what agony lives inside that grief. Say less, listen more. Giving them a place and space to be with what is here without trying to transmute or fix anything is about as loving as it gets. And that’s all that’s needed.
4. Writing – Kelly Diels told me this long ago: “Write like a lover, edit like an ex”. And while you’re editing, take out anything that waters down your meaning, your message, your power. Laura Belgray has a super useful resource on writing "non-sucky" copy that is super clear and concise and engaging. Remove all qualifiers that are cliché, redundant, ambiguous, pretentious or passive (aka, cut the CRAPP). And my pal Ben Borowski (a SIYSR retreat alum, BTW) wrote this fabulous piece on how words like obviously and simply are loaded with judgment and are super triggering. Just…don’t.
5. Offering advice – Before you offer someone advice, ask yourself first: “is this piece of advice for them, or is it for me?” Is it true THEY need to have a hard conversation with their spouse, or is that for you? Wisdom we wish to impart to others is often a reminder our soul wants us to recollect. That’s what my #CueCards are all about. Trust me on that one.
6. Apologizing – Don't justify, rationalize, or make excuses. Nobody's got time for that. And roads need to get mended. It’s simple: Own up to what you did with specificity. Accept responsibility. Commit to not doing it again. And – here’s the really important part - don’t do it again.
7. And while we’re talking about apologizing, let’s take saying less one step further. Never EVER apologize for who you are. Just don’t. (And for some added inspiration, conjure this remarkable rabble-rouser.)
8. Speaking - I revisited my friend Julie's counsel every time I took the front of the room last week: "Trust the intelligence in the room". No matter how learned my teachings may be, nor how useful my processes are, nor even how impactful my words may well be, the REAL intelligence lives in the room. My job as speaker, teacher, facilitator, leader is to feel for it. Not to talk over it, but to make space for it. Trust it. That’s where the real resonance is at.
And two places you can’t NOT afford to say more:
1. Injustice – Think there are no solutions for the shootings that we are seeing over and over, so often that we are getting whiplash from shaking our heads? Here are 25. And many, if not all have everything to do with us saying more. Intelligently. Head-shaking isn’t enough. “Our silence is not revolutionary” says Janelle Hanchett. Our silence is not benign.
Speak up, speak out and risk the vulnerability hangover. You will survive it.
2. "I love you" - Life is short, friends. Be specific. Let's try this instead:
“I love you because…”
“I love you because you want so much for me.”
“I love you because your empathy is everything right with the world.”
“I love you because your laughter lifts everyone up.”
“I love you because your soul work inspires my soul work.”
“I love you because you are truth and integrity and bedrock incarnate.”
“I love you. Because…”
I repeat: Life is short. Make every word count for something. Something like everything.