During a conversation a couple years ago, I heard a friend of mine make the statement, “clear is kind”. What she meant by this is when we communicate clearly, even in challenging conversations, saying exactly what we mean is the kindest thing we can do.
So often people shirk away from having hard conversations because they’re afraid they’re going to make someone mad or hurt someone’s feelings. While these seem noble on the outside, the greater purpose is never served well.
A while back a friend was being let go from her job. She is amazing in a million ways and no one really understood why she was being let go. Of course, the reason she was given was a basic one. But with the exemplary scale she completed her tasks with, it just didn’t seem to hold water. So of course, there was the fear that something more than what she was being told was going on. Instead of walking away upset, making assumptions or worse yet, being afraid to hit the street looking for a new job, she leaned into her discomfort and had a one-on-one talk with her boss. Turns out the reason was indeed the reason. Nothing more, nothing less. She was relieved and from there could let go and move on.
More recently, I was having a session with a client of mine who was struggling with her marriage. Over months and years her head had filled with all sorts of doubts and fears, then came irritations, frustrations, and anger. She was becoming increasingly more and more unhappy as time had went on. She had a thousand conversations inside her head about what had gone wrong, whose fault it was, and was ready to leave her marriage. There was absolutely no way this could work out in a happy ending, she was sure of it.
Here’s the deal. She wasn’t talking to her husband about it. When she tried in the past, he didn’t “understand her”, and they would fight, so she stopped trying. She believed the issues should be obvious to him. Obviously, it was time to dig way deeper.
After some time and some excavating, I sent her home with the homework (I’m told people love/hate my homework) to actually talk to her husband. We practiced how she would say things, timing, when, who would be around and who wouldn’t, etc. A week later I got an email from her thanking me for saving her marriage. (For the record, I didn’t, they did, I just helped her know how to start over – it’s what I do.) She talked to her husband, and it was hard. She cried, he cried. They loved each other greatly, but hit an impasse. He lost hope and stopped trying because he had no idea what he was doing wrong. She was frustrated with him and so she only told him about what he was doing wrong and nobody wants to listen then. It had become a vicious circle.
She had fallen in love with a man, married him, and then changed her criteria of what she wanted. Honestly, I see this all the time. Someone marries the person they wanted to date, instead of marrying someone they wanted to be married to. She wasn’t clear. So, the fights they would have were about her expectations of him, and how he didn’t meet them, which he didn’t know had changed, so he never had a chance.
Until she had the courage to say what she actually meant. To be clear – articulately concisely and with some kindness, they couldn’t resolve anything.
She realized she had abandoned the man she fell in love with because she wasn’t clear in what she expected of him after they got married. When she was reminded about who he was before they got married, and why she fell in love with him, she could find her way back.
When she talked to him about where she had gone wrong, and was clear about what she wanted and needed at that point in their marriage, he could respond with the love he had for her and show how much he wanted them to be happy together. As they have learned to communicate more openly and honestly and CLEARLY (say what you mean even if you think they should know) their marriage opened up and began to grow together again.
It is a beautiful thing, but not an easy one.
It’s hard to say things that you know are going to hurt someone, but what if knowing what’s going on also liberates that person? It’s challenging to be clear about what is true for you in the situation, but if you don’t know what you need then no one can give it to you.
Communication issues happen in every facet of our lives. Left to their own, things are only made worse.
Make no mistake, clear is kind.
PS: Having trouble in your world? There is never a bad time to be better. Let’s connect. Email me at: Anne@annebradycronin.com