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What’s the difference between these two sentences?
- He had nothing to say.
- He said nothing.
The second one reports the fact. The first one is my impression, my perception, my opinion, or an oblique way of saying ‘he spoke but it didn’t mean anything’.
Owning the interpretation of the fact is a big step for some who prefer to see only through their hurt, fearful lens. What a leap to not make the other person responsible for how you feel!
If you really need him to say something, ask him a question. If he still says nothing, are you sure he has nothing to say? What else could be true?
‘But I expect him to say something!’ Can you get neutral about that? If you consistently expect something that isn’t likely to come, might you revisit your expectation? At minimum, you can reduce tension in the relationship and allow yourself space to explore the possibilities for building on differences. In my experience, it’s an exercise in futility to expect the other to change to your liking. Further, insisting on certain behaviors thwarts a relationship built on authenticity.
When leaders foster authentic interactions, their teams learn open communication developed from a mutual respect for differences. It’s a choice, and you get lots of practice to see relationships anew.