I am so grateful to my friend Tricia for inviting me to join her at a fundraising event last week where Brené Brown was the keynote speaker. If you aren’t familiar with her work, Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She is the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers and her 2010 TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” went viral and is one of the top five most viewed TED talks of all time. Using the perfect blend of research, humor, and storytelling, her talk, like all of her work, was rich with insight, honesty, and practical information. This quote was one of my biggest takeaways:
Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.
When having any conversation, being clear is the kindest thing we can do. We often think that skirting around the issue and avoiding saying something directly might spare someone’s feelings. Brené pointed out that the opposite is actually true. By not being clear, we are withholding valuable information which causes the listener to fill in the blanks with their own stories. Most of the time, these stories are not true, which causes more confusion and emotional distress. If we speak from our hearts and deliver the facts in a kind manner, the recipient may not like what they hear, but at least they know the truth about what they are dealing with.
Having the “disease to please” like so many of us do, this is something I continue to work on. I remember a time when my clear communication created a domino effect of happy results. Several years ago, a team member suggested I dress up as Santa Claus for a “Christmas in July” event she was planning at the spiritual center where we both served on the board. She thought I was the perfect candidate to don the red velvet suit and white whiskers given my experience in character costumes at Disney World. I told her I would think about it.
This decision weighed on me heavily. I was new to this center and wanted to demonstrate that I was a team player. However, this did not seem like a good use of my time or talents. I tried to talk myself into it because of my love for kids, but wearing a fake, scratchy beard shouting “Ho Ho Ho” for hours just did not sound like fun to me. I considered telling her that I had another commitment or was too busy, but what if she changed the date or asked me to do it again in December? What would I say then?
After much deliberation, I decided to be clear and simply tell her this was not something I felt comfortable doing. She was not thrilled, but she respected my decision. Had I avoided the conversation or fabricated a story, it could have come back to haunt me later. Being clear gave her the information she needed to proceed and gave me peace immediately.
Later that summer, I decided to attend my first Big Sky Retreat. Being gone for ten days presented a bit of a problem because I was housesitting and taking care of a friend’s cat at the time. I asked that same team member if she would stay in the house and take care of the cat while I was gone. She initially said yes, but later confessed she wasn’t a fan of litter box cleaning and said it would be better if I found someone else. I think my clear communication about the Santa suit gave her permission to be honest about the litter box. Because we were both honest, neither one of us felt obligated to do something we didn’t want to do. What makes this story even better is that I ended up asking another friend who recently lost her beloved cat. She was thrilled to spend time with Karma Kitty and had no problem with litter box duty.This could not have happened without clear and honest communication with others and more importantly, with ourselves.
Is there a situation in your life where you could use some clear communication or tools to help you have a difficult conversation? It would be my great honor to assist you with a series of Life Coaching sessions or a private Family Constellations session. For more information on both of these clarifying opportunities, or to schedule a session, please look around my website or send me an email. Sessions can be done in person, by telephone, or via the internet from anywhere in the world.
Until next time, I invite you to be courageous and clear. It’s the kind thing to do.
The Holy Spirit speaks with unmistakable clarity and overwhelming appeal.
~ from the preface of A Course in Miracles