CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Is it easy or hard for you to be direct with your communications? It may very well depend on how you're wired. Some of us are quick to speak what's on our minds. And some of us hold back. This might have to do with early childhood conditioning, or it might have to do with learned behaviors over the years.
What a simple concept -- saying what you mean and meaning what you say. In reality, though, it's much more difficult to pull off. If we lived in a vacuum, this would be a lot easier. It's that wildcard ingredient of other people in the mix that makes the difference.
And then there's the tone of voice -- and all that nonverbal communication going on. It's a wonder we're understood as much as we are! One person's direct approach might sound abrupt to another. Carefully considering the options might seem perfectly reasonable to one person, while it may be excruciating to someone else. Has anyone ever said to you, "Get to the point" or "Land the plane"?
Of course, the context of the conversation speaks volumes. You might be more direct with your family than you would be in a business setting. Or, there might be sensitivities within your family that cause you to choose your words carefully. If you're too direct in certain situations you can end up sticking your foot in your mouth. On the other hand, if you're not direct enough, you can send the wrong message.
I'm reminded of the time my husband, John, and I planned to meet my brother and aunt at a Chinese restaurant in Beckley. We arrived early (which, I'll admit, is unusual for me), went inside and got a table. After drinking a couple of pots of tea, waiting 45 minutes and calling my brother's phone repeatedly, we went ahead, ordered and ate. When we finally reached my brother later, he recounted a similar story in which he and my aunt had waited about half an hour as well -- and then gave up and went home.
I immediately jumped to the conclusion we had gone to the wrong restaurant. That was not the case. My brother and aunt had sat in the parking lot, waiting for us to arrive and never saw us. Little did they know we were already inside! Now we clarify that we'll meet either inside or outside the restaurant, as we chuckle about this past miscommunication.
Although this is an innocent story -- and only resulted in inconvenience -- there are many situations in which the circumstances of miscommunication can be much more dire.
Sometimes we sugarcoat our communications. While these kinds of messages are rooted in good intentions, they can end up doing more harm than good. According to corporate trainer Cookie Tuminello, beating around the bush doesn't serve any purpose.
"I like to call it verbal dancing," Tuminello says. "We dance around the subject we most want to discuss, thinking the other person will get what we are alluding to, and eventually we'll get what we want. Heaven forbid we rock the status quo by actually saying what we really want to! After all, how could we survive should that other person not like us after they find out what we really think? Here's a better question for you: How's that sugarcoating working for you?