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July 11, 2024

How to Stop Your "Unsaids" from Draining Your Energy

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A complaint we get from many leaders is that they feel exhausted. “I have no energy left by the end of the day,” they report. “It feels unsustainable.” 

We agree that it’s unsustainable. 

One way we coach leaders to manage energy is to notice where their energy is leaking. We believe conscious leaders are experts at energy management. And leaders who withhold their thoughts, feelings, and sensations expend valuable energy. What do we mean by this?  All day long, many leaders unconsciously withhold (or conceal) the truth of their experience. They withhold what they are really thinking, feeling, and their thoughts or judgements. They do this in meetings, 1:1’s, and in boardrooms. What they don’t realize is that concealing expends energy. 

The opposite of concealing is revealing. It involves being willing to share what’s true for us in the moment and speaking our “unsaids.” When we talk to leaders about the idea of revealing rather than concealing, we often get these responses: 

  • “It’s not safe to say what I really think.”
  • “It would create conflict if I revealed.” 
  • “I’d get fired.” 

This kind of fear makes sense to us. Our socialized selves are strong—really strong—and of course play an important role in survival. Our socialized selves help us get approval, belonging, and ensure our safety within a group or community. However, in today’s work culture many of us are so in servitude to our socialized selves we conceal far more than we reveal. This conditioning not only prevents us from sharing valuable intelligence with a group, it also costs leaders relational connection, team engagement and collaboration. Most of all, it costs us energy.   

The Opposite of “Unsaids”: Revealing

When we invite leaders to reveal their withholds, what we don’t mean is to impose our “truth” on others, which usually involves a degree of righteousness about how we see the world. In this posture, leaders seek to defend why they are right and tell others how things should be. 

Instead, we believe leaders should speak the truth of their experience from a place of curiosity. We believe this begins with noticing and expressing what we call our “unarguables.” This starts with revealing simple body sensations and feelings. For instance, saying, “I noticed my stomach dropped when you announced the deadline shifted and I felt scared about the time I have to deliver the project.” You can see how this type of reveal is unarguable because it’s based on a leader’s subjective experience. 

The second step to revealing our unarguables is to separate facts from stories, and share the stories we make up about the facts. For instance, 

  • FACT: “When you said the deadline would be four weeks instead of eight weeks…”
  • STORY: “I made up a story that there is no way we could deliver the same number of deliverables at the quality you’re expecting.” 

When we express our unarguable truth and separate fact from stories, we are not trying to defend why we are right or to manipulate an outcome. We are simply sharing our experience in order to be known, which costs far less energy than concealing. We get energy back, increase engagement and collaboration, and invite creative problem-solving with others. Another benefit of revealing is that it inevitably saves leaders and teams from spending time and energy on guessing games, gossip, and the all-too-common “meeting after the meeting.”  

5 Steps to Revealing Your “Unsaids”

To recap, here’s a simple step-by-step process for revealing your unarguable truth: 

  1. Reveal body sensations. Your sensation belongs to you and is indisputable. 
  2. Reveal any feelings. Your emotions are also unarguable.
  3. Separate facts from stories. Facts are what a video camera would record. Stories are everything else we make up about the facts. 
  4. Reveal any thoughts or stories and name them as such. 
  5. OPTIONAL: To take this a step further in conversation, you can even reveal how you’d be willing to see the opposite of the story. “I can see how the opposite of my story is true because you didn’t say the deliverables needed to be the same, and we haven’t had a conversation about your expectations. I’d love to talk further to best manage expectations with the time and resources I have.

When we get in the practice of revealing our unsaids, we increase the flow of life force that moves through us because we are self-expressed and known. When we conceal our unarguable truth, we block that flow, which leaves us feeling drained and disconnected from others in the world. 

What is withholding costing you?

Further Practice

“Unsaids” are one of the blocks to integrity we help leaders overcome. Use our Integrity Inventory to help scan through your life and discover where you may be out of integrity. 

For an advanced immersion in Integrity and revealing your withholds, apply to join our Integrity Boot Camps (for coaches and leaders), happening in October 2024. 

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