Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash
I gleaned over the Facebook event details, unsure of whether this is something I would be interested in attending or not.
Someone had invited me to their birthday party. My plans were open for the evening, so I didn’t really have an excuse not to go.
I looked at the guest list. Lots of unfamiliar names and faces appeared. My uncertainty and unwillingness to commit to this party remained.
I lingered on the event page for only a few more moments before I knew what I wanted - not to go to the event.
I scrolled my mouse to the top of the page where I could RSVP and saw the words “Can’t go” with a big X next to the words.
Seeing these words, being such a common response to an invite, left me pausing.
A big part of my philosophy in life is to be as responsible as possible at all times. That’s because I’ve come to understand for myself that whenever we take responsibility in life, we get power.
When I point my finger toward others, I become a victim, helpless to circumstances and events outside of myself. When I point my finger toward myself, I actually have the opportunity to do something, regardless of how little it is, about the situation.
And this goes for my communication as well. Part of communicating authentically is to take full responsibility for my thoughts, feelings and actions in my speaking.
Flipping back to the situation, you can start to understand why I was thrown off by the words “Can’t go.”
Was it true that I “can’t go”? No, it’s not. I don’t WANT to go. I’m CHOOSING not to go because there is something else I’d rather do.
If I really couldn’t go, it might be because I am physically unable to bring myself to doing what I was invited to. For example, maybe I got a last-minute request while I was in a different country and, due to the limitations of physics, I am unable to make it to the event in time. Or maybe I was invited to a challenging multi-day hike shortly after I broke my leg. Maybe then I would say I can’t. And even still, when I really take a look, all my broken leg means is that it would be incredibly difficult to do a hike like that. It is actually impossible? Probably not. So, does that mean I can’t go? No, it means I can and am choosing to avoid the difficulties associated with doing that.
This is a classic example of what I call “Denial of Responsibility Language.” This is where we use our language to obscure our awareness of the fact that each individual is ultimately responsible for how they think, feel and act.
Another version of this is saying “I don’t have time.” Take a look - do you actually not have time? Or are you simply choosing to prioritize other things? Consider that you always have time to do what you want in life. It is simply a matter of prioritizing in the moment.
So how do I avoid this kind of language? I say things like:
“It doesn’t work for me to go.”
“I’m not going to go.”
And if I’m feeling bold, I’ll even say:
“I don’t want to go.”
My goal is to be authentic and straightforward with people. I avoid sugarcoating things and I try my darndest to steer clear of language that is concerned with making me look good and avoid looking bad. It doesn’t matter if I look good or not - my priority is to be REAL with others.