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“Yeah, babe – whatever you say.”

“Sure, no problem.”

Are these smart answers to staying together, or are they giveaways? Well, it depends.

The May series, I’m Open To That, is looking at ways to be flexible and authentic. There are plenty of times to adapt by giving in or letting something go – that’s a natural part of the give and take of relationships. But in the desire to help a relationship go forward, are there moments when we give ourselves away? Sometimes we need to stand our ground.

Tom’s family loved Miranda the minute they met her. Smart but quiet, his family worried that he would have trouble meeting the right girl.

Miranda kind of found him. After they worked together on a grad school project, they were inseparable. She seemed like the perfect foil for Tom. He was a great listener, and she had plenty of bubbly conversation. Marriage was the logical next step.

Tom’s sister, Heidi, was excited on her flight home for the holidays. It had been over a year since she had seen everyone at Tom and Miranda’s wedding.

“Mom, does something seem off about Tom?” Heidi asked on their way to do some Christmas shopping.

“Off? I don’t know what you mean.”

“I keep trying to talk with him, but Miranda won’t let me get a word in edgewise,” Heidi shrugged. “It’s kind of weird – it’s like she makes up his mind for him.”

“Oh, that. Yes, I’ve noticed it, too.” Her Mom rolled her eyes. “I tried to encourage Tom to speak up, but he’s never been much of a talker. He laughed, “If I don’t have an opinion, there’s nothing to get upset about!” I guess that’s reasonable.”

Heidi continued, “After 3 days of Miranda chattering away, I finally got Tom alone and asked if he ever disagreed with her. He looked away and quietly said, “I do, but I don’t know what to say.” It broke my heart.”

Tom thought constantly accommodating Miranda was the most loving action he could take. Yet every time he sugarcoated his sincere thoughts and feelings, he bargained away his personal power.

How can you shift your real world conversations so they’re authentic? Here are some ideas to get back the giveaway:

  • “I’m fine with whatever you want to do” becomes “Let me sleep on it. I need to give that idea some thought.”
  • “We don’t need to talk about it” changes to “I’m sad right now.”
  • “I never know what to do” is “I’m not sure about the next step yet.”

Challenge yourself to become aware of the difference between being appropriately diplomatic and merely avoiding confrontation. Reimagine your communications – you can say anything, as long as it is respectful, kind and true.

Filmmaker and internet pioneer Tiffany Shlain has a lighthearted approach to keeping conversations real, even sensitive discussions. She jokes, “I can contribute best if I come from what my husband and I call “opticism.” Optimism and cynicism combined.”

“Yes”, “No,” or “Maybe” – each of them are the right answers this week.