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Cutting Back On Hinting Is One of The Best Things You’ll Ever Do

If you want somebody to do what you want, to give you what you need, or to meet certain expectations, there are a number of options for going about it, including doing various favours and making concessions so that they potentially might feel obliged to reciprocate in just the way in which you want, need, or expect. Other ways include being manipulative, obstructive, being kind, doing good deeds, and looking pained.

What you might not consider doing is asking for or stating the need, expectation or desire. Or you might assume that your hints and round the houses communications are your way of asking for what you want, need, and expect, but they’re not.

Imagine that you're dating somebody and as your feelings grow, you're wanting clarification about the status of the relationship, but are trying to gain it without being vulnerable and expressing your feelings.

1. I’d like us to go out to dinner on Friday [maybe he/she will feel so intimate in the dinner setting that they’ll desire a relationship]

2. Did you hear about [another couple that you both know who have been together for a similar or shorter amount of time] are moving in together? (A brief conversation results or maybe even a minor acknowledgement but of course no mention of your own relationship. You probably feel a bit funny now about trying to broach the subject in case they think that you’re being opportunistic. You may feel resentful for them not connecting what you were saying with the both of you and speaking up. Still haven’t clarified the relationship.)

3. Whatever you want to do. (This is your snippy reply to something because you suppressing irritation, disappointment and hurt, is bubbling over into your interactions. They ask if you’re OK and you say that you are or erupt with a stream of irritations and accusations about them not caring about and appreciating you. Still haven’t clarified the relationship and things are pretty tense.)

4. I really like you and enjoy spending time with you but I need to know where we both stand before I can continue. I don’t want to have a casual involvement and need to know that I’m in a relationship and that I’m in it with somebody who is OK with seeing a future with me. I would like to be in a relationship with you - what do you want? (You’re going to find out where you stand and you’re either going to get what you want - a relationship - or you’re going to be free to pursue what you want with somebody who wants the same thing.)

Hinting is something that's best left to surprises and games. The danger of hinting for general communication is that you're a hop, skip and a jump away from crossing into passive aggressive.

More examples of hinting:

If you want somebody to do something without you having to ask or without you having to appear that you are nagging. “I’m really tired…. sigh… Well, I’d better get on with these tasks” is really, “I’m not going to ask you to do this stuff because you should just know so instead I’m going to hint at how tired I am and what I have to do in the hopes that you will offer…” “What’s that? You’ll help me out. Oh that’s OK…” is really, “Of course I want you to do it but now I feel that I’ve guilted you into it and am now saying that it’s OK when it’s not”. If they take you at your word, you feel even more pissed off!

“Don’t worry about it - I wasn’t expecting you to do it anyway! It’s not as if you normally do things around the house” is actually, “I know I’m saying this in a jokey way but I am masking my irritation and resentment about the fact that I do everything around the house. Hopefully you’ll pick this up in the joke without me having to be on your case about it”.

You pretty much agree with everything he/she says and laugh at all of their jokes and listen to stories or even their gripes. You’re trying to let them know that you like them because in your mind, what you’re doing communicates romantic interest. Then they rock up with a new man/woman and you feel as if you got whacked in the mouth with a wet fish. In your mind, you were communicating interest and because that’s how you saw things, you assumed that them not mentioning an existing partner or not treating you differently (maybe being more distant, less attentive etc), was a sign that they felt similarly. In the aftermath, you feel really angry because you feel as if they should have spoken up or been more direct if they weren’t feeling you in that way…

You make up a story about how your coworker told you this story about a friend of theirs who was inconsiderate in the hopes that it will ‘inspire’ your friend to reconsider their own actions. You feel that this is better than saying, “Remember the other day when you said that you would _______ but then you didn’t and then you cancelled at the last second too? Well, it’s really bothered me.”

“Sorry - I probably shouldn’t have said anything. I know how busy you are and I don’t want to be adding to your problems” isn’t the same as, “I know that you’re busy but when you don’t return my calls or disappear for days at a time, it’s clear that I’m not a priority and I find your non-responsiveness upsetting”.

“Let’s go with your choice as I know that you really want to go there” doesn’t mean what you’re claiming it to mean if what you really want to say is, “I know that you really want to go there but can we go with my suggestion this time as I’d really love a turn at choosing where to go”.

“I’ve got this report to turn in and my neighbour was making a right racket last night, and my tummy’s feeling a bit iffy and blah blah blah” followed by a big ‘ole awkward pause is less effective than, “I won’t be able to help you out this time”.

“I’ll think about it” as a means of getting the person off your back is less effective than, “Thank you for considering me / the offer / the suggestion but I really don’t want it/to…. Yes I’m sure but thank you”. You know why? Because if you say that you’ll think about it when you already know that you don’t want to, that persistent person will keep chasing you up and you’ll either keep hinting or end up agreeing to something you don’t want to.

Objections is another one. "It's a long drive" and then they say that it's only an hour and far longer by train. "Oh well what about the weather?" and they say that the forecast is fine. "When is that work project due in?" and on and on. What's really being said here is, "I'm not really keen on you going" or "I'm worried about you going because_________."

If you feel tempted to hint at your true feelings and opinions, use it as your cue to recognise where you're having a fear of vulnerability and stepping up. It's a sign that you will be coming from the zone of people pleasing instead of from the zone of self-esteem.

If you cut down on the hinting, you will find that you are more respectful of yours and other people's feelings and opinions. It's not something you will avoid 100% of the time - we're all only human after all - but if you cut it down dramatically, you would see a significant transformation in your interactions.

  • You will know where you stand.
  • People will know where they stand.
  • You will not be winding up people or even having things that you have said being misconstrued.

What we fear about cutting back on hinting is that we will see an increase in confrontation (us approaching or being approached with hostile or argumentative intent).

The reality is that we experience criticism and conflict (and yes sometimes confrontation), whether we hint or not, and we are likely to clash with people if they perceive us to be doing what hinting is: saying something without saying it. If this is followed by us not admitting to it even when we're called out on it, tension, conflict, and yes, possible confrontation, are likely to ensue, either because we eventually erupt out of frustration from holding our feelings in and them not being or doing what we want, need, or expect, or because we've worn down the other party's last nerve.

What you also have to keep in mind is the critical need to take responsibility for you. It is unfair to hint as your style of communication because aside from the fact that it will cross into passive aggression, you're also putting it at other people's doors to figure out what you need, want, expect, feel, and think, and that is avoiding responsibility. You're wanting them to take ownership of your feelings and behaviour.

This is exactly why your People Pleasing Diet can be so transformative because your increase in self-awareness and self-knowledge is empowering you to ascertain what you feel and why. You can discern whether [when you're annoyed or you're struggling to get something across] it's due to fear of vulnerability (you can then consider the consequences of silence or half-assedly communicating something or discern whether it's a real or imagined threat). Or you can discern whether you're taking issue with something that's a one-off or a pattern of behaviour, or whether it's about what was said or done or how that has been internalised by you.

Remember that you can still be a loving, good, kind, positive person and express feelings and opinions that you've typically labelled as negative. It's called being human and not living so much of your life in fear. You can be direct and conscientious rather than being so achingly conscious of not wanting to be vulnerable and say the wrong thing that you don't really say anything.

After growing up in a tense environment, it's easy for me to get into saying but not saying things but I don't like it when I do this because I'm not really 'owning it'. I feel as if I'm ducking out. I'm veering between not respecting the other person and assuming that they can't handle it, and then being scared and not respecting my own feelings.

Here's something I've learned about not hinting both through my own experiences and those of others: I'm never mad at me for being brave. Whenever I've been angry about hinting related stuff, it's always because on some level I had halted at the idea of being vulnerable, at the idea of stepping up or speaking up. I'd known what I truly felt or thought or I'd had a damn good idea of what the other person was saying or indicating, but had struggled to find the courage to address it. Time after time, that's what a lot of the stories I hear about have an underlying theme of - this sense of frustration that comes from knowing what needs to be said or done but having been too scared at the time.

Our relationships improve - they grow stronger - when we are owning our own and letting others own theirs. We feel at our best when we speak and act from a place that we know to be true in the sense that we're trying to do the best that we can by us but also trying to do the best that we can by our relationships because we value them.

You cannot know what you feel if you don't acknowledge it or express it. You've also got to communicate because our communication is only as good as our expression of it. If your message isn't clear, make it clearer. Don't hide it away in pleasing overtures and vague comments and statements.

Remember that expressing something that may be negative doesn't equate to being disrespectful. Expressing your needs, expectations, and desires doesn't mean that you're being disrespectful or imposing. You need to be a part of the conversation of your life.

It's also important to recognise that you can only really begin to sort through what you feel and think when you express it, especially when others are involved because you open up a dialogue. You let them into your space, they (if they are open to being vulnerable and hearing you out), let you into their space. These feelings and thoughts are not static. You might feel or think something at the start of a conversation and feel and think something else by the end of it but you won't expand and enjoy any of this, if you don't communicate more clearly.

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