Whether it’s after a creative workshop that I’ve hosted or an interview, a webinar or after something like the live call and question-and-answer session that I’m hosting tonight, I often hear people ask me, “How do you say something worth listening to?”
How do you figure out what to write, what to share, what stories to tell?
The surest way to say something worth listening to is to say what you’re scared to say as soon as you possibly can.
We usually wait until the end to say what scares us, or even what makes us a tad uncomfortable. We wait to say what feels a little “too honest,” too personal, or too vulnerable.
We might wait until the end of the conversation to say that compliment we’ve been thinking in our heads. We might wait until the conclusion of a blog post or essay to muster a last ounce of strength to say what we were scared to admit up front, at the beginning. We might wait until the end of a loved one’s life to say what we’ve long wanted to say.
Or, we hold back from saying it altogether.
Instead, we tend to exchange pleasantries. We say what’s safe and expected. We talk about the weather and the Red Sox or do the whole, “How you doin’? You good? That’s good. I’m good too. Good.”
Say the thing that you’re afraid to admit.
“Actually I’m having kind of a tough day today. I’m not really sure why, but it’s throwing me for a bit of a loop. You know that feeling?”
Offer up the honest compliments that we think in our heads and yet, for some reason, make us feel uncomfortable when it comes to expressing them out loud.
“You know, I love how much energy you always bring to your yoga classes. It totally changes my mood for the rest of the day. I know it must not be easy for you to do that at times when you’re having a tough day, and yet you always seem to do it without fail. So, thank you for doing that.”
Why do we hold back? Why do we swallow kind, generous, loving compliments to friends and family? Why are we so damn terrified to say hello to a stranger on the street?
Because it’s safe. It’s sure. It’s comfortable.
We stick to pleasantries and swallow honesty because it’s frictionless. It’s easy. It means that we take on no added responsibility.
Most of the time, we’re too caught up in our own stories and struggles to carry the capacity to take on anyone else’s.
“What if someone unloads some heavy story on us, or reveals some struggle that’s just too hard to hear? What if we don’t have the right words to fix their problem or say something to make it better? What if I fail them? I might rather not hear it at all if that’s the case…”
So instead, we tend to default into empty, hollow exchanges with others during our days and nights, and frankly, we tend to like it like that.
And yet, empty and hollow exchanges leave us feeling empty and hollow inside. Our capacity to love goes further unused. Our hard-wired desires to connect and befriend, unite and socialize are neglected. When we default to empty and hollow exchanges, even if it’s more comfortable and “less awkward” and means you can skate by the world unnoticed, it means we’re neglecting the very things that make us human to begin with.
This mentality is what we see embedded in the culture of big cities.
You put your head down like the rest of us, you don’t make eye contact with anyone, you stare idly into the blank screen of your iPhone, and you carry on your own damn business.
In big cities, this a means of survival.
You’re living on top of one another. Your emotional-space is impeded and trampled upon daily. Your physical space is all but a joke. You’re as good as suffocating.
Keeping to yourself is preservation. It’s vital, because you’re preventing yourself from going fucking insane.
But why do we carry that mentality around with us beyond the realm of big-city living?
Why do we maintain that “frictionlessness” in conversations with family and friends? Loved ones? Partners, boyfriends and girlfriends? Or those “strangers” with whom we have a really great, fun, random exchange with? Or that “stranger” who we see at the cafe, the bar, the gym more often than our own faces in the mirror?
On a simple and practical level, nobody wants to walk around dropping heavy, loaded, emotional bombs on strangers.
Nobody wants to impede upon another’s emotional or physical space.
We don’t want our presence–the very sight of us–to be seen as an invasive, oppressive, “awkward,” nerve-inducing force.
There’s social etiquette to maintain. Politeness and basic boundaries.
But it doesn’t mean we can’t start being more truth-bearing with our words, in gentle, unimposing and completely liberating ways.
Your words matter. They carry weight.
And whether you’re a writer or not, the words that you use daily–from the quiet thoughts in your head to the words you speak to the cashier, bus driver, co-workers or customer service representative on the phone–can be used as vessels of love and liberation.
Love and liberation can begin with a single compliment. A hello. A thank you.
Life is way too short to walk around with your head down.
You deserve so much more than hollow interactions and empty days where you keep mostly to yourself, but for Facebook and email. You deserve depth and experience. Nuance and meaning. Feeling interconnected to souls like yours, instead of maneuvering in spite of them like a car weaving between traffic.
You’re robbing yourself of the gift that you exist at all. In some ways, you may even be dishonoring the gift of the lives of those around you.
As a writer by profession and a communicator by vocation, words are everything to me–because they represent a completely pure, totally honest, renewable and organic source of connection to souls. Words are a vessel of embrace. Words are buoys of love floating in this unsure sea called life.
When people hear that I’m a writer, I often hear them ask me this question: “How do you say something that’s worth listening to? How do you write something worth reading?”
Writers or not, it seems that we’re all interested in saying things that matter.
The simple answer is that you need to get so honest with yourself that it terrifies you.
You need to speak what truth frightens you. What truth makes you feel uncomfortable, uneasy, nervous, too “vulnerable.” You need to reveal a shred of your soul, your love, your God-given beauty in a way that scares you.
And when you do?
Suddenly, you’re speaking something that’s worth listening to. Because it’s real. It’s raw. It’s loving and genuine and true. It’s truth in which a soul like yours can see himself or herself; they can feel themselves in the honesty and vulnerability that you show when you drop the cloak of politeness that hides your true self from the world.
Do you want to speak more truth from your soul?
Do you want your words to be felt as quiet buoys floating in a tumultuous sea–unimposing but completely life-saving vessels that bring people up in their darkest times?
Say what scares you.
“I see you.”
“I love you.”
Make a game of it. Challenge yourself. How quickly can you get from Point A to Point B in the next conversation you have?
Saying what scares you is the surest way to say something that’s worth listening to. It’s the surest way to write what’s worthy of others’ eyes; what’s worthy of others’ time and consideration and even their dollars.
What scares me, you ask? Just about any time I write something that feels “worth reading,” I’ll tell you, it scares me. I’m nervous to share it. I’m terrified of being seen for “the true me,” a “me” that I can’t seem to fully peg down because that “me” is always changing.
We’re always shifting and evolving. We’re each learning and growing. And as life carries on, we go on in these delicate and intricate stages of hardening and softening, growing and regressing, and, ultimately, deepening and deepening into more of our true selves.
What scares me? The truth is that I never really know which way I’m going. I hope that I’m softening and deepening, evolving for the better and being more and more me. I hope it’s not all a trick, a lie.
That scares me.
But, the longer I go, the more “me” I feel.
And that’s one metric we can each use to know that our lives are more and more worth living, and more worth sharing, and more worth slowing down to enjoy.
Saying what scares me is a big piece of that. Every time I say what scares me, I find something else worth speaking–something else that I know is worth listening to. It makes me feel more “me” in the process. And, I hope, makes whoever might be listening feel the same.
P.S. – Are you looking for practical advice to be more “unapologetically you” in practice, every day? I’m hosting a free call tonight to kick off the debut of a community designed to help you explore, align and integrate your life. Sign up for the call here and join me tonight at 9PM Eastern!