When What You Don’t Say Is Just As Important

I received a couple of questions lately and wanted to answer them here. The first one is about socializing somewhere you know only one person, and the second is about when what you’re not saying is just as important as what you’re saying.

conversation group

— Question —

Hi, Paul. I can make friends in one on one situations, I can also manage to talk to people when a few friends of mine are there. The situation that frustrates me the most is when my friend invites me to a party where only his colleagues and partners are present, and I don’t know any of them.

What I do, and I think this kills my mood, is to stay close to my friend. So much so that people think we’re a couple. It doesn’t help him as I sense that he wants to talk to people all over, and it doesn’t help me as I’m only talking to him! It really feels awkward.

How should I manage this social situation? Do you have any solutions for this? I’m not necessarily looking to make friends with all the people there (although that would be great!), I just don’t want the situation not to be awkward.


— Answer —

What I advise here is to start where you’re comfortable: start by hanging around your friend, and the people he or she’s talking to. Then, either keep talking to those people, as your friend goes somewhere else. Or expand to people close by, knowing that you can always get back to your friend.

It comes down to with whom you “hit it off” (the people with whom you found things in common, and/or with whom the conversation seems enjoyable). It’s really okay not to have things in common, as long as you stay positive about it.

Socially skilled people don’t expect to “hit it off” with everyone, they don’t expect each and everyone in the party to be their type. So, stay positive, try to bring your most joyful and social self to the table, and enjoy your time talking to people.

Again, start at the periphery of where your friend is, and expand from there.

If you go back to your friend a couple of times during the party, he or she will likely understand. They won’t expect you to immediately find someone with whom you can talk all night. They’ll assume that you were socializing, and then either the conversation died off, or that the other people had other friends to catch up with.

— Question —

Hey Paul,

I’d really appreciate your input on this, as it’s gotten me in some heated water lately. I usually say exactly what I think to people. I’m starting to think that that’s not what they like, they’d rather hear the pleasant, smooth, and safe things.

For example:

  • I told a friend of mine that I didn’t like her couch, because I really didn’t.  I thought she would actually want my real opinion on it, but no. What was I supposed to say? Lie? It’s not like I insulted her personally or anything.
  • During a meeting with clients, I told them that a deal won’t happen if they didn’t send us a particular document. Everybody got silent, including my team mates – should I have kept my mouth shot?

I can’t count the times this stuff happened to me. Whenever I’m honest and direct in my communication I come across as an awkward, socially out-of-step guy. And I’m not being mean spirited or anything, I’m just telling it like it is.

Thanks so much, Paul. Would really appreciate your help!

— Answer —

I’ll get right to the point. From YOUR perspective, you’re saying the truth, and nothing but the truth. And if people don’t receive it well, then they have a problem with the truth.

Well, not exactly. You’re missing a key point here.

Much of what goes on socially is NOT SAID. It’s SUGGESTED, or IMPLIED.

So, taking on your examples above:

Here is what you implied to your friend, when you said that you didn’t like her couch: “You have no choice now that the couch is already here, you can’t instantly change it, so too bad for you, you’re going to spend all these days sitting on a crappy couch, day-in and day-out… that’s too bad, I feel sorry for you.”

And, here is what you didn’t say, but implied, when telling the clients about the missing documents: “You know what? I’m beginning to suspect that you’ll never come forward with those documents, and I’m here to tell you that this deal is dead, unless you bring those missing documents. I’m ready to kill this deal once and for all, unless you start being honest here.”

That’s what you were not saying – but were implying, nonetheless.

You can understand why people get uncomfortable and maybe even shocked. Even if your intentions were to just share a truthful statement, you have to pay intention to what you could be implying.


You can’t just say stuff, without paying attention to how it will be received. You have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, to anticipate how they’ll perceive what you say. Sometimes, people ask for your opinion in order to get encouragement – maybe they want to feel good about their new couch – don’t smack it down!

All in all, it’s not about just the truth, it’s about how you communicate to the other human being, how you make them feel, how they perceive what you’re saying, and how constructive your interaction with them is.

I hope that helps!

If you’re reading this and you think that you too would like to know all the social skills that not all people are aware of, I suggest that you do the following: download the Get The Friends You Want eBook and start learning the untold social secrets that can prevent a lot of awkwardness in the future.

– Paul Sanders

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