Things I Am Learning to Say

The title makes it sound like I am trying my hand at a new language. I am not. The things I am learning to say are all in English. More accurately, some of the things I am learning to say I am really learning to say more frequently, more honestly, with more conviction, with more thoughtfulness.

“I was wrong.”

Still tastes like vinegar each time I say it, but I have come to appreciate the value of it. I used to think admitting I was wrong was a sign of weakness and vulnerability. Turns out it helps build trust. I thought people would lose respect for me. Turns out admitting wrongness can help gain people’s respect.

“Can you help me?”

I thought asking for help would be seen as a sign of weakness. I thought working 16-18 hour days would be better than asking for help. Turns out asking for help makes us vulnerable in the right ways, helps gain people’s trust, and people overwhelmingly respond positively when help is requested of them.


Okay, so this is a word I use a lot. And I mean it when I tell people to be awesome or embrace their awesomeness. So what do I need to learn to say with this word? That it doesn’t lose its meaning if I say is sincerely to people.

“I appreciate you.”

I say thanks for people’s contributions to work quite regularly, but I am learning to say that I appreciate the person that did the work. (And not sound creepy when saying it.) I honestly do appreciate people even though I am not really a people person. I need to learn to take time out to say it.


We all have things we need to apologize for. (Heck, if you are Canadian you are pre-conditioned to apologize all the time.) Here’s the thing – I am learning to say “sorry” without couching it in a disclaimer or excuse like “But I was really tired when I said…” or “But I am sure you’ve had situations where you’ve…”

“You are welcome.”

I don’t accept thanks well, which means saying, “you are welcome” has not come easy. But if people appreciate me, my work or contributions I need to vocalize my recognition of that. I need to get better at acknowledging people’s appreciation.

Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing.

One of the best things I am learning to say is, in fact, saying nothing at all. Learning to listen is actually teaching me lots about learning how to say things I really mean. And it is hard for me to truly be reflective and in the moment to calm what would be my own contributions to the conversation to just say nothing at all.

About Iain De Jong

Iain is a playful nerd, hellbent on ending homelessness, increasing affordable housing, creating vibrant communities, and expanding the knowledge amongst leaders that influence social issues. Having held senior management and professional positions in government, non-profits, and the private sector, Iain has a wealth of experience and has garnered dozens of awards for his work across Canada and internationally. His work has taken him across Canada, the United States, and to Australia. In 2009, Iain joined OrgCode as its President & CEO, and in 2014 assumed full ownership of the firm. In addition to his work with OrgCode, Iain holds a part-time faculty position in the Graduate Urban Planning Programme at York University.

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