Are You Courageous Enough For Honest Communication?
In a conversation with my brother he made a profound observation. He opined that frequently we wonder what people are thinking because we don’t know. But we have the ability to know because we can simply ask them. However, we don’t. Why? Because people would much rather live in the comfort of the gray then live with a hard no.
His words really resonated with me because they speak to the power of effective communication and the fear that keeps us from living in that power. I don’t know if you are like me, but far too often I have chosen to live life in that gray area, afraid of what will happen if I speak up. Afraid that I may hurt someone, that I might be rejected, or look foolish if I simply say what is on my mind. But one thing life has taught me is that the abundant life is not lived in the gray, but in the courage of effective communication.
I was a very quiet and shy child. In some respects, I lived in the shadows of my older brother. I let him speak up for me, and relied on others to communicate on my behalf. As I got older and branched out on my own, I spoke up more, but still had a somewhat laissez faire approach to communication.
Rooted in fear, I did not, and still do not always, express what may be bothering me. Instead, I kept my feelings to myself in an effort to keep the peace. I always admired people who spoke how they felt without fear, but found it difficult to emulate.
Now, after years of internalizing these feelings, they are starting to wear on me. In trying to keep the peace externally, I have found that it has disrupted my peace internally. The peace I had been trying so desperately to maintain was just an illusion because I failed to factor myself into the equation. And I can’t do that anymore. Instead, I have committed myself to honest and effective communication for three main reasons.
Not communicating can be destructive
Failure to communicate does not eradicate the problem. Instead, it allows the problem to fester, morph and potentially become explosive. The silence builds up walls of resentment and further entrenches fears present in the relationship. Nothing is solved in the silence. We only continue to perpetuate the illusion of comfort by continuing to exist in the gray. But relationships are strengthened by facing and solving problems, not avoiding them.
You Owe It to Yourself
As I noted above, I did not speak up because I was too afraid of how others would respond. But I am not responsible for the emotional responses of others, and neither are you. That does not mean you should be callous. Rather, it is simply the recognition that you can only control your emotions, not others.
Part of controlling you emotions entails honestly communicating. If others find this upsetting, you can try to be sensitive to this, but you need not let that stop you from communicating. As long as you are communicating honestly and in the spirit of love, then you should be at peace. You owe it to yourself to know where you stand with someone; to know if the answer is a “hard no.” Again, living in the gray is living a life of false comfort.
You Owe It To The Other Person
Lastly, while fear may keep us from communicating, relying on assumptions does as well. I know I am guilty of this. I assume that a person should just know what I am feeling. They should know that their behavior is unacceptable or was hurtful.
But this is life in the gray. Perhaps the person should know. However, if you communicate to that person, then you will know for sure that he or she knows how you feel. Remove the ambiguity. Life does not have as many universal truths as we may think. More importantly, this is only fair. You would not want to be judged for failing to read someone’s mind. So then it is only right to extend the same courtesy to others.
To be sure, communication is hard because the potential for conflict is there. Nevertheless, we must be courageous enough to communicate and avoid the false comfort of the gray. Also, we must create a safe space for honest communication to occur. People are willing to face their fears when they feel safe. So make sure to do your part to make others feel safe enough to be honest with you. I expect this will be a lifelong endeavor, but it is one I am committed to. I hope you are as well.