Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

Some guys try to coast through life breaking up with girls by ignoring them or sucking up to the boss when the boss doesn’t have a clue of what’s going on. These types aren’t just pushovers, they can’t be trusted. In a relationship, at a party, or at work, we show you the best way to be a man of your word.

Remember the time you introduced your little kid to your boss and your son turned to you and said, “This is the guy you don’t like?” Fortunately, as children mature, they learn to censor their thoughts. But do you ever wonder what it’d be like if your parents had never censored you with the admonition: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all”?

That’s sound advice, except when it’s taken to the extreme—turning us into wimps. Often, the opposite feelings kick in and we overcompensate with unnecessary niceties. You’ve killed people with kindness, haven’t you? In the ideal world, you’d tell off your boss and get those pent up feelings off your chest. But it’s your boss we’re talking about, so you can’t.

But you can! You can confidently look your ‘victim’ in the eye, project strength and honestly say what you’re thinking. Without being a dick.

Honesty 101

The temptation is to just say, “Things aren’t working out—you’re not my type,” to the girl you’ve gone out with a few times. But you can’t do that because you’re a wuss. So you play games, dodge her, stop returning her calls and texts, and defriend her on Facebook in the hopes that she gets the picture.

She will get the picture—but she’ll get something else, too: The message that you are a total coward. Alternatively, if you sit her down and say, “Things aren’t working out because you’ve become a raving lunatic when you’re drunk,” she might take offense to that. Honesty has risks. But in the long run, hey, most of us are adults—we can take it.

You can be totally honest when it’s time to kill a relationship because chances are, you’ll never see her again. Unless she starts dating, like, your dad or something. Awk-waaard.

But in the business world one must tread lightly with the whole honesty thing. Some bosses can take it. Some can’t. Know your boss before you fire off at the mouth about his management style that needs tweaking.

Tweaking? T-w-e-a-k-i-n-g? Guess the movie, I’ll buy you a steak … no, I won’t.

I worked for a manager who constantly screamed and yelled. Everyone at work was miserable. I was one of those folks who didn’t particularly enjoy being yelled at, but the pay was good, so I dealt with it. One night, I decided I’d had enough. I also knew the manager was in his office nursing a Rum and Coke. He was surprisingly approachable.

I told him I didn’t like his managing through fear and intimidation; I braced for the worst. But things went better than expected. He told me he yelled because people, oddly, were afraid of being yelled at. “If you’re afraid of being yelled at, you do everything in your power to not get yelled at,” he said. Ironically, I responded, a lot of people react differently and the fear of being yelled at makes them tenser. He told me he appreciated the feedback, shook my hand and guess what? I never got yelled at again.

Don’t Make False Promises

You’re at a party and you’re introduced to a personal trainer. Don’t be the guy who asks him 73 questions about your tight hamstrings and the rotator cuff injury you got from one too many keg stands. He’s at the party to relax, not work. If you’re genuinely interested in his services, ask for a business card, tell him you’ll call—then leave him alone.

It’s in our nature to be nice and supportive. Actually, it’s in our nature to forage and hunt and kill shit with arrows … We say nice things because it makes us feel better about ourselves—temporarily. This desire to appear nice, but not follow through isn’t forgotten by the personal trainer. Yes, even if it’s something as ‘harmless’ as telling a personal trainer you’ll buy some training when you know you won’t.

Solution: You don’t need a trainer, but you want to say something nice. Ask for his card and say: “If any of my friends need a trainer, I’ll pass your info on!” That way, you can feel good about yourself and your word isn’t called into question.

We’re Busy People

Now say you’re at another party (Jeez, who are you? Charlie Sheen?) and you meet a struggling author (ahem, ahem) and you’re genuinely curious about his book. You actually want to read it; you’re not just saying that. You blurt out that you’ll buy it as soon as you get home. But you know as soon as you get home, his business card is tossed onto the pile of cards you never look at.

Or you might tack his card onto your fridge as a reminder to order the book, but in between standing in line for your cupcakes and organizing your sock draw, you just haven’t got the time.

Solution: If you really intend to buy his book, whip out your iPhone at the party, go to Amazon.com and type “Kenneth Suna” into the search field. When the skull logo pops up, you know you’ve found his awesome restaurant exposé. Add it to your cart then and there.

In Business

I had to call my Grandma on this one (thanks, Grandma!). There was a time—before Al Gore invented the Internet—where your word and a handshake was akin to having a room full of lawyers with their Mont Blanc pens and legally binding contracts. Grandma said, “Businessmen would shake hands over a diamond sale and say, ‘Mazel B’rucha.’” Google tells me that’s Yiddish for pass the bagels. What? Fine, it means good luck and blessings. What that has to do with trust and keeping your word is something we will never know. But if you reneged on the diamond deal, you were blacklisted.

Those days are, generally speaking, dead. Sure, people say, “You have my word.”  But that’s usually in the following context: “Did you eat my turkey sandwich?” To which your co-worker says, “No, bro. I didn’t eat it. You have my word.”

It’s 2011 and trust is nonexistent. Unless your name is on a sheet of paper contractually obligating you to do something, it doesn’t matter what you say you’re going to do. The exception to this might be the individual who has established a reputation for integrity over many years. His handshake would be worth its weight in gold.

The New You

It’s not always possible to confront your boss and tell him exactly how you feel. And it might be awkward or difficult to tell the girl you met online she wasn’t what you expected. However, you will develop a reputation as the man who is the straight shooter and, while honest, is more respected as a result than the ninny who hides his feelings.

You’ll be the guy who says what you mean and means what you say. And your word will be stronger than ever.

Kenneth Suna is a writer and full time, self-employed stock trader who lives in Washington, D.C. His first novel, Roman, was recently published. Follow him @KennethSuna.

  • chris

    I totally read “Kenneth Sutra” and thought, “I need to buy this book immediately.”

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Chris, that’s awesome haha. Kenneth, sounds like you’ve got your next book title.

  • Edward

    Great article. Very relevant for today when nobody says what they mean. Loved the You’ve Got Mail reference!

  • http://www.itsamiracletheyaintdeadyet.com Kenneth

    edward – glad you got the you’ve got mail reference!

    chris – … how would i go about legally changing my last name?

  • Daniel

    This is a great post. I really wish there were more honest people in the world. I used to be a total coward when it came to telling people what I think or how I feel about them. I went through a relationship that ended really badly because I couldn’t be honest about the problems I was seeing with it, and since then I’ve been much more straightforward in the way I live my life, and have stopped hiding what I think and feel out of fear of the consequences. I’m much more proud of myself now because of it, and I have the respect of more people around me. You are completely right.