Some think I have a tendency to be “curt” or “too direct” in my communication.
Of that group, there are those who appreciate it, and there are those who urge me to “soften what I say.” I believe I am diplomatic, and I know I am most certainly aware of the feelings of the person to whom I’m speaking; foremost in my thoughts being, “How would I want someone to say this to me?”
But — especially in matters of high import — the way in which we construct what we say is essential. Tying oneself into a verbal and linguistic Gordian knot to avoid taking responsibility for what is truly meant so dilutes the message that the recipient is unsure what was being said from the get go. (Example: Have you ever listened to a politician answer a direct question? It can be painful.) This type of tête-à-tête serves no one, exacerbating the issue. Direct interaction — delivered in a thoughtful, sensitive fashion — is not rude; it shows respect to the recipient, while causing the deliverer to be more precise in which words he or she chooses, lowering the possibility of conflict.
With that as my bias, let me hoist my High Crankiness upon my soapbox yet again.
If you ever have to tell someone something you think they need to do differently, or something you don’t like about what they do, raise your hand prior to opening your mouth and take with me this pledge:
“I refuse to say anything like ‘Everyone thinks you need to do this,’ or ‘All your co-workers are concerned,’ or ‘Some people say…’”
Hiding behind “everyone else” or “what others say” is — frankly — just plain cowardly. Period. If someone wants a different behavior from a spouse, child, friend, or especially an employee; the person who delivers the message needs to own it and be honest with what he wants, stating clearly how he feels and what is the expected outcome. Everyone is entitled to ask to be treated the way they want.
However, if one has to cloak oneself behind vagaries, “weasel words,” or a buffer of drummed up “public opinion,” it’s better to keep his mouth shut. Using such spineless techniques as a manager weakens the title, turning him or her from leader to mouthpiece. As an average, everyday person, “rescuing” others who need to speak for themselves furthers poor communication, increases your workload, and — can we be honest? What you’re really engaged in becomes a power play against the recipient, the goal being to make her feel like “the other;” isolated and alone. That’s not fair to the silent masses refusing to learn to speak up; nor to the person delivering the news, reducing her to a conduit for others; and it’s undoubtedly unfair to the receiver; boxing her into a falsely created “us” versus “them” arena, generating defensiveness and bad feelings.
I realize — especially since this gets posted on the web — that various internet-Neanderthals might take this as license to post vile, putrid, obscene remarks in reply, rationalizing I’ve provided my stamp of approval. (Sadly I’ve been victim to that many times.) However, that is unequivocally not the intention of my tirade. There remains a wide un-crossable chasm between insults and clean communication. Civility counts and is fundamental to unencumbered dialog.
If there’s a recurring theme in what I have written over the last seven years, it’s that words matter, whether we say them to others, or how we use them on ourselves.