tell it to me tuesday – i wish i could say

I wish I could say I were a little bit taller…
tallerHaha, just kidding. (sort of. not really.)

I wish I could say…

…what I mean to say, when I mean to say it.

But no. It only comes to me hours later, when I am left with nothing but a very satisfying monologue in my head. But when I am in a heated argument, my defense mechanism is to shut down and turn off. As if my mind has decided for me that it is better not to feel at all than to respond inappropriately. And so it is only much later than I come up with the witty repartee or snappy retort.

Of course, I would only wish I had this ability if I also had the ability, in the moment, to choose to use it or not. Because it might be worse if I said things that couldn’t be unsaid, than to have never have said anything at all.

What do you wish you could say?

The Rules
I think there is real power in the human voice, as flawed as it may be. And when the voices speak together, when you have a multitude of voices speaking, patterns begin to emerge and there you can begin to understand truth. So in the spirit of the personal narrative, I am hosting a weekly challenge every Tuesday morning, where I will post a topic (ranging from the banal to the intimate) and ask readers to respond. I would love to see everyone’s answers and how similar and different they all are.

You can respond in any way you choose. You can give a fictional response or a true one. You can use words, sentences, and/or photographs. If you have a blog, you can link it with Mr. Linky below. Please be sure to include “Tell It To Me Tuesdays” in the title, and link back to this post. Feel free to use the “Tell It To Me Tuesday” button available to the right. If you don’t have a blog, but want to join in, you can just leave a comment. Please follow the rules. I don’t want to have to delete links. I like links! Don’t make me delete them.

Next week’s challenge:
Comfort book or movie
If you had a weekend all to yourself, with no one to see and nothing to do, what book or movie do you turn to time and again? What book or movie satisfies you no matter how many times you sit down with it?

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11 thoughts on “tell it to me tuesday – i wish i could say

  1. I do that, too. I'll come up with the perfect come-back approximately 7 hours later. On the rare occasions I do come up with a reply on the spot, it usually not a time or situation for the reply I've come up with!

  2. I know what you mean, as long as you could chose when to use it then that would be a great power to have! I'm more say it and then regret it later than not think of what to say at the time. I'm trying really hard to pause and think before I reply with something at the moment.


  3. It's hard because there's usually a difficult power dynamic going on! I suspect, even if I could slow the moment down and choose, I'd end up stuck between saying something mean and letting myself get steamrolled. Neither is an easy choice.

  4. Haha! So true. But man, I wish I were 5'4". I'm just 5'0". The *really* annoying part about that is that pants are always too long for me (and I only buy the ones that come in shortened lengths) so that, unless I want to get them hemmed, I have to wear heels so my pants don't drag on the ground. Even if I do get them hemmed, I usually buy flared or boot cut legs, and hemming them throws off the balance of cut so it never looks quite as good. ::sigh::

  5. Usually I feel this way when I'm in a larger group (like 5 or more people). I've always been taught to listen to what the other person has to say before responding, but I find in large groups (in Western cultures in particular) a lot of people have a tendency to talk right over each other. So I'm busy processing what Person A is saying, meanwhile Person B has already jumped in, while Person A is still finishing their sentence. By the time I get a chance to put two cents in edgewise, the conversation has moved on. (Or my favorite: someone presumes they know what you're going to say and cuts you off with their response – meanwhile it wasn't what you meant to say at all, or not all of what you meant to say. But that's probably a whole other issue.)

    The other situation where this comes up is when I'm in a discussion with another person (usually it's one of higher authority than me) and for some reason or another I'm on the defensive, or just generally out of my comfort zone, I have a tendency to pull a "deer in the headlights" move and can't come up with any decent response.

    The point in either of these cases is not to "put in a zinger" and shut the other person down or win an argument per se, but really to just say precisely what I mean to say: something that will get my perspective across and allow me to be understood. I do try my best to listen to what others have to say and consider it, and usually I don't totally mind if they disagree with my position once I've said it. I don't care so much about others thinking I'm always right so much as I just care to be heard.

    At the very least, if someone does something that hurts my feelings, I would love to be able to say, "Hey, wait a minute. That wasn't very nice." But when my feelings get hurt, my brain and body shut down and I can't even process it until later. I suppose it's a defense mechanism I've developed because I was never allowed to talk back to elders. And when your entire family are all elders…well, you learn to shut up pretty quick. The few times I've ever really argued with my parents (prior to the age of 25 or so) did not end well for me. Not only did I not get my way, I got in further trouble for talking back – even though I tried to do it as politely as possible.

    If I have some time to think and an opportunity to come back to it, I can usually find a way to resolve conflict in a calm and respectful way. But in the moments where I've just got that one shot, I wish I could think more quickly on my feet – if only enough to slow the conversation down and say, "Wait, let me see if I understand you" and buy myself some time.

  6. There are several things about this discussion that trouble me. For one I would like to know who is engaging in these arguments with you. I know you. You are kind and thoughtful, intelligent and informed. So I tend to give you the benefit of the doubt sight unseen. However, I don’t know who you are in conflict with or what that conflict is. I can’t judge with so little information. I know the sensation of feeling powerless in the middle of a tense exchange – the other person is “winning”! Oh no. If only I could think of something really impossible to refute. If only I could apply a real zinger that would stop my enemy in his tracks! But isn’t that presuming that we own the right side? And while we are considering our own powerlessness or inability to come up with the perfect answer are we really listening to what is being said? Are we participating in an exchange or are we just trying to win?

    I would have to say that if we find ourselves in an argument with someone we are willing to stop mercilessly with a harsh, well stated word then we might as well excuse ourselves and go have a cup of coffee or something. It doesn’t matter. If we have no concern for the feelings of our opponent, why argue at all? What difference can it make to us that they hold a different position? But if it is someone we care about it seems reckless to endanger the very relationship by striving to win the argument with one unanswerable blow.

    Over the past few months I have found myself in the position of “making nice” quite a lot – for various reasons having to do with my job and other iffy areas of daily life. And it has caused me a bit of annoyance to feel that I must give in or decline to defend my own position vigorously in order not to lose far more than the argument at hand. But – oddly – I have found that there is a drop of precious balm for me in slowing down an argument by saying, “Oh, I haven’t looked at it that way. I hear what you are saying. Perhaps you are right. Let me think about that.” It isn’t surrender, only an acknowledgment that the other person has a point of view to be considered. If I am unwilling to consider his/her side why would I think he/she would look at my own? And the result has been that my opponents step back and the pressure is immediately reduced. We do really all want the same things – to be heard and accepted. Time is bought to return after reflection and to reopen the discussion on a more even footing. Arguments do not have to end in sudden, perfect comments that shut down the opposition. They can become negotiations, opportunities for each side to be heard and considered and, perhaps, included in a solution.

    We have become so competitive. We want to get our hand on the buzzer first. We want to be the only voice heard. But if we cannot allow ourselves to consider the other side doesn’t it suggest that we doubt the strength of our own?

  7. Oh, I see what you are saying now, I think. It is about formulating your position with concise, effective clarity rather than delivering the perfect final blow. That IS something to wish for! So many things are practically impossible to put into a few well chosen words. That is probably especially true for someone who takes the time to consider other views and related topics and influences. I would almost say that the more intelligently diligent and honest you are – the more willing you are to examine the complexity of an issue – the more challenging it would be to distill your point of view into relatively few words.

    Consider, too, that saying the right thing is at most only half the battle. Your opponent must be listening and capable of understanding what you are saying in order for you to be understood. That burden is not only upon you. There are people who cannot or will not understand you no matter how clear your explanation. (That way lies consciousness raising, civil disobedience, and many other methods of preparing the way but that is another topic entirely.)

    You are so right about people talking over each other or putting words in your mouth. That is terribly frustrating and doesn't lead to understanding. And serious discussions between people of different levels of authority are usually so complicated by "politics" that it is a wonder any real exchange of ideas ever takes place. Amazing, isn't it, how many ways there are to "win" arguments that have nothing to do with the merits of the case! I do think people too often think of discussion as combat or competition, though. If only we could "reason together" rather than win or lose arguments.

    When my children were young my policy was that they were allowed to state their opinions and to argue their side with me, even loudly, so long as it did not become a personal attack. There were times when I would interrupt one of them to point out that they were sliding into insult rather than debate. (I do hope they learned that somewhat subtle distinction.) There were even times when I changed my view because they had clearly explained an issue in a way I had not considered. I had to defend my method against several very harsh critics who felt I was making a horrible parenting mistake by allowing my children to "talk back". My intention was to give them a chance to learn how to clearly state and strongly defend their beliefs – even passionately held ones that might raise the decibel level – without resorting to emotional cruelty.

    Of course that policy of mine was a response to being unable to "talk back" when I was a child. My experience was not so different from yours apparently.

    It is so easy for a discussion to devolve into a messy exchange of personal attacks. It's a tricky thing to defend against personal attack without adding to the emotional heat of the argument. It can be extremely important to do, though, because there are those who will learn that the best way to "win" arguments with you is to hit you where it hurts. Regardless of the topic under discussion, if you can be reduced to silence (or sobs) they count it as a win in their column. Some people – unfortunately, I deal with a couple of them daily – apparently rely on the concept that the best defense is a strong offense no matter how brutal or unrelated to the subject under discussion. One must wonder about the early experiences that led to such an abusive tactic!

    Given what we learn from our parents as well as the residue of arguments with others that didn't go well, misunderstandings with friends, relatives and colleagues over the years, and a few lover's quarrels, it isn't any wonder our attempts to state our positions rationally are so fraught with emotional baggage! I, for one, think you are remarkably able to communicate effectively – both verbally and in writing – probably much better than you think.