Work Hard to Find Harmony in Your Words
Efficiency is awesome to me. Efficient processes sound like harmony in my mind, so I seek them out. I love observing efficient systems in nature like photosynthesis and homeostasis. For me, even communication can be subject to the laws of efficiency, but sometimes it takes lots of work to find the harmony. I make a conscious effort to let efficiency (and hopefully harmony) govern how I communicate.
1. The fastest way isn't always the most efficient.
2. People can handle the truth.
3. What you have to say is important.
4. Do you want to be heard?
The Fastest Way Isn't Always the Most Efficient
When we communicate with words, we get a very powerful, some might say godlike opportunity to try to give someone else a window into our life's experiences. I believe that being authentic is most efficient and most productive. However, just because it's fastest to say exactly what's on your mind, the fastest way is not always the most efficient way. Neither do I believe that being overly nice, flippant, or sarcastic with words is the most efficient way to communicate. There are many creative ways to be both authentic and to respect a person's personal space in the world.
Just like efficiency, I guess I am kind of a stickler about honesty. Please be real with me always, even if you think it's going to hurt my feelings. I promise to do the same. I want feedback, but I want honest, respectful, productive feedback. My urgent pursuit of honesty and feedback is one of the reasons that I love canine companions (see Georgia Love to the right!). Dogs always tell us the truth, lol. But unlike dogs, humans can communicate in ways that are inauthentic and we are subject to the influences of self-doubt and self-importance. Consider this: being anything but authentic with words is an expression of self; it's a grab of power; it's a choice in favor of self-importance or even self-doubt -- and it's inefficent if you want to be heard.
People Can Handle the Truth
Let's start with little white lies, like when we lie to someone "for their own good" (as we say in the South). I say that even an altruistic use of inauthentic communication is a choice in favor of 'self' over others. In this example one person assumes that they know what the other person needs to hear. You might say, "Well, I'm just trying to be nice. How is that bad?" To me, choosing a less descriptive or overly glossy response instead of communicating our real thoughts means we are secretly saying, "I'm afraid he/she can't handle what I am going to say or what I think." This is fear. Notice the use the word "afraid."
What are you afraid of? It's important to think about your answer to that question. Once you figure it out, acknowledge your fears. It's very important to find your fears and look at them in the "whites of their eyes" because fears sit very quietly like bad wizards in the corners of our minds. These self-created bad wizards stealthily nurture and maintain myths of self-doubt that tell us we are too crazy to handle, too weird to love, or too bad to change. You are not too crazy, too weird, or too bad! Try allowing yourself the opportunity to connect with other people so we can all collaborate, connect and build relationships. Give a growth a chance and say what you think.
What You Have to Say is Important.
Another type of myth that self-doubt wizards propagate inside our minds is this, "People really don't care what I have to say because they don't really want to change anyway." Again, I say that this is a choice in favor of fear. In this example, when we choose "nice" over authentic, we are robbing the other person of a chance to grow personally. Might we be assuming that the person on the other end of our words needs to be placated and isn't interested in honest, authentic feedback? People, hear this: If someone asks you for feedback, give them the respect of being authentic. People who ask for feedback want to grow.
Do You Want to be Heard?
If you see an opportunity for growth, communicate it. But do you want to be heard? Being sarcastic, blunt, haughty, or pompous with feedback is being lazy (IMO). Jokes are important. And sometimes because everyone is human, it's easy to find a joke in someone else's growth process. But, if you want people to hear you, spend time figuring out the right way to say it. To be heard, you must work hard, ***actually work VERY hard*** at communicating your perspective in a friendly, caring, or empathetic way. If it's impossible to be friendly with feedback, then at the very least include respect and neutrality in your communication style. Otherwise the joke or the superior attitude distract from the point. Sarcasm in communication erodes the growth process. If what you are saying is important, honor the vulnerability that is present when feedback is given. Even if the recipient of the feedback isn't vulnerable, you may have an audience that is. And if what you are saying is important, don't you want everyone to listen? People are much more likely to listen to you if they feel that you are more interested in helping them grow than making a joke or making a point.
Hard work is essential for success. Many of us work hard at doing life. Let's work just as hard to create harmony when we communicate with other people? Everyone's feelings can be hurt, even people who are interested in growth and who are brave enough to risk negative/critical feedback. Perhaps even more so, we should work to communicate authentically with people who are not brave enough to ask for feedback.
Okay fellow earthlings, let's BE REAL with each other. BE BRAVE! BE VULNERABLE! BE WEIRD! BE RESPECTFUL! How about we try giving each other the benefit of the doubt? Let's find and face the bad self-doubt wizards. You got this, people!
I heard it said once that there are only two real human emotions, fear and love. What if fear and love could work and play well together - what if we acknowledge the fear as a useful, protective human emotion. But, also acknowledge that those little self-doubts take a ride on our natural ability to fear and turn it into a cloud of steamy isolation. Maybe if we all work hard to find a way to be authentic and nice, we can work together to make the human experience an even better one. Next time you think about being inauthentically nice with your words or sarcastic with your point, try giving respect and connection a chance.