Relationship Advice for Saying What You Mean and Meaning What You Say

Have you ever caught yourself saying one thing but feeling something entirely different–and it ends up damaging your relationship or at the least, you feeling angry with yourself later?

Well join the club…

Talk about a barrier to intimacy–this is a really good one!

It also gets in the way of heart-felt and honest communication.

Susie saw this in action the other day on the way back from a trip to San Diego while standing in line at a Starbucks at the airport.

Here’s what happened in Susie’s words…

“The cashier took my order, I gave her my credit card, she gave me back the card and I moved to the side–out of line. Almost immediately, the cashier (in somewhat of a panic) told me that she didn’t charge my card for part of my order.

“I stepped back in front of the line (in front of the woman who was at the counter) and gave the cashier my card again. I smiled (a smile of apology) to the woman who I’d stepped in front of and she smiled back.”

Sounds good so far, right?

But here’s what this woman said…

“I’m smiling but I’m really mad inside.”

We can only imagine that she meant that she really didn’t appreciate Susie stepping in line in front of her–even if she had an excuse.

Susie was taken aback by her honesty as she explained the situation to her (which she had probably overheard anyway). Her honesty amazed us because this woman caught herself doing something that wasn’t congruent with what she was really feeling.

As we think about this incident, we are reminded about how many times we smile (or express some other emotion) when we really mean something completely different.

We show some emotion on the outside but on the inside we’ve got some different emotion going on that really wants to come out.

The trouble is that covering up the true emotion with a smile just pushes the true emotion down and it usually comes up later at inappropriate times and in inappropriate ways–(like mean, sarcastic remarks that have nothing to do with the real situation).

And that can kill any relationship if it happens over and over.

Why do we do it?

We do it out of habit to try to please, to be kind, not make waves, to keep everything on an even keel–and be loved.

But if you have ever done what I call the “automatic fake grin,” you know that it only leads to trouble later.

So what do you do when you’re with a loved one (or someone you work with) and find yourself grinning when you don’t feel that way at all?

Here are some ideas that we’ve worked with to get our faces to be congruent with what we’re really feeling and what we want…

1. Recognize that you have the “automatic fake grin” problem, feel the true emotion and stop yourself.

This takes some presence on your part to notice when you feel irritation (or whatever emotion) bubble up inside you and stop yourself from what you habitually do.

We find that taking a feel deep breaths and bringing the focus to the center inside us (below the belly button) helps us to feel what’s
really going on.

You can slow your automatic reaction down with practice and attention.

2. Get to the heart of what you want before you speak and respond in a way that opens the person rather than closes him or her.

Ask yourself a simple question like–“What do I want right now?” and then listen for the answer.

Sometimes we just need clarity about what someone said or did (instead of making up stories and assumptions).

If so, use these words from our “Magic Words” program…

“Help me to understand why you said or did __________.”

If you make a request for more information, then the other person will better be able to stay open to you instead of shutting down and getting angry with you.

You can find more magic words and phrases at

3. Keep track of when you are successful in changing your habit.

So often we’ll beat ourselves up for not “doing it right” but I’m urging you to start keeping track of when you are successful in making the change you want to make.

At first, you may only be able to stop the automatic fake smile once in awhile but not be able to get to the true emotion.

Just keep practicing and you’ll find that it does get easier to be who you truly are while keeping your connection with those you love.

My challenge to you is to be honest and do it in a way that keeps that heart-felt connection that we all want and need.

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