EXTRACT: That’s Not What I Meant!

That’s Not What I Meant! is a punchy how-to guide that will help you to be clear about your message, break through communication barriers, overcome misinterpretations, listen with purpose and, finally, start creating workable, win-win relationships with the people in your life.

It’s time to get real, read this book, change the way you communicate and watch how quickly your relationships transform.

Leah Sefor is South Africa’s go to life and relationships expert, who has been entertaining viewers with her direct advice on shows like Real Health, The Bachelor SA and The Single Wives Club SA. She is well known for being a straight talking,

An extract from the book is published below with permission of the publishers.

Triggers are unconscious, automatic reactions to something being said or done to you or someone else. Someone calls you stupid: triggered. You see a mom hitting her toddler in the grocery store: triggered. You see someone being body-shamed online: triggered. You watch a movie where someone dies: triggered. You hear someone saying Star Trek is a load of rubbish: triggered!

Triggers make you lose control and feel like you’re drowning in a pool of negative emotions. Most of the time, when communication between two people starts going downhill it’s because of triggers.

Whenever you get triggered, you’re going to go into an instant fight flight- freeze response. You’re either going to fight back, screaming and shouting and making accusations and interrupting and belittling the other person. Or you’re going to run away, walk out of the room and emotionally shut down, engaging passive-aggressive silent treatment for days to follow. Or you’re going to sit there paralysed, not moving and not knowing what to say, letting yourself become the punching bag with no response at all.

Here’s how a trigger or reaction happens. Your partner is in a mood and makes a snide comment about something you’ve done. Your conscious mind doesn’t know what’s going on, so it sends a query down to the subconscious filing system: ‘Hey, what’s happening right now?’ Your subconscious file master starts flipping through all the files, trying to match the sensory input.

They match the visual (the person talking to you, their physicality, hair colour, eye colour, posture, the clothes they’re wearing, the physical location you’re in, their facial expression, etc.), the auditory (the tone, tempo and volume of their voice), the olfactory (the alcohol or food you can smell on their breath, the sweat on their skin, the faint whiff of body wash they used that morning), the taste (the taste of iron at the back of your mouth that you get when you’re stressed), and the physical sensations (the anxiety in your chest, the knot in your stomach, the rapid heartbeat, the dry mouth).

It collates all of that information, associates it with an existing file called ‘Fight with boyfriends’, and then opens the file and sends all that data up to your conscious mind, saying, ‘You’re having a fight with your partner.’ You then remember … ‘Last time this happened, I stayed silent because shouting back just made things worse and not saying anything made my partner calm down a bit and I then left the room so they could cool off and we could take a breath and taking some space also seemed to help.

Nothing got resolved and we both gave each other the silent treatment for two days and acted like nothing had happened and then it was over.’ So, what does your conscious mind do? It hits Replay. And voilà – you’re in a triggered reaction, handling the fight in exactly the same way as you did last time because doing so will give you a predictable ending, which feels safe and manageable. You could write the script for how you and your partner fight because it’s the same every time.

Just because you can control how your fights play out doesn’t meanyou’re winning and it definitely doesn’t mean you’re growing. You’re just stuck on repeat, allowing your unconscious triggers to run your life. If you want to experience better conflict resolution in all of your relationships and stop feeling so out of control in other areas of your life, you have to learn how to stop defaulting to automated, triggered reactions every time.

Reaction vs response

Think about the word ‘reaction’. Re-action. You are acting it out again.

You are re-enacting the same actions and behaviours and conversations as last time. A reaction is an automatic replay of a feeling or an emotion related to something you’ve done in your past. The problem with this is that there’s no conscious thought or creative solutions happening here. You’re not evolving or transforming your behaviour when you’re reacting. Your reactions keep you stuck in the past. When you keep replaying those conversations or events again and again, they begin to control your thoughts – which then control your behaviour. You enter an automated state over which your conscious mind has no control.

Instead, I want you to think about having a response, not a reaction. A response is deliberate feedback that is thought out and constructive.

It’s measured and considered and is proportional to the event that is happening. When you choose to respond instead of react, you rewire your files to reflect different information – and thus different behaviour – in the future.

So, if you want to improve the communication in your life, a few things have to happen:

Quotes out of: That’s not what I meant:

‘Communication is not a competition, it’s not a race, it’s not about a winner and a loser . . . Here’s the thing with communication: it’s about relating.’

‘You cannot control how people hear you or interpret your words, but you can give them clarity in the way you speak that leaves no room for misinterpretation.’

‘. . . any relationship in your life is going to give you the opportunity to look at your own behaviour and the space to learn new ways and evolve, if you let it.’

‘Love means something different for everyone. So, it’s important to specify to yourself and the people in your life what loving you looks like and sounds like.’


‘The days of being tongue-tied are over. Leah has made communication an art that we can now all master. Such a necessary read.’ – Jason Greer, host of The Bachelor 

‘Sefor’s witty charm, profound empathy and radiant generosity offers a ground-breaking system that allows us to self-reflect without the self-righteousness that often comes with self-help books. This book is a gift.’ –  Phemelo Motene, broadcaster, SAfm

‘In her inimitable easy-to-read style, Leah Sefor will inspire you to communicate differently, to deepen your connection with others (and yourself) so that you create constructive relationships that matter.’ – Nikki Bush, author of Future-proof Your Child 

‘The book is so rich with practical information. It should be required reading in every workplace and learning institution.’ –  Stacey Holland, TV presenter & wellness entrepreneur

That’s Not What I Meant! is a handbook for everyone. It unpacks, in a simple and relatable way, why we communicate like we do and offers practical guidelines for improving our relationships.’ – Deborah Darling, model & pro-ageing ambassador 

‘Leah Sefor has been telling me how to communicate better since I was twelve. She was six.’ – Toby Shapshak, editor-in-chief/publisher of Stuff magazine