Communication was never my strong point, which is ironic when you consider that I started out as a communications major in college. Of course, I have learned and improved quite a bit over the years, largely thanks to my husband and his insistence that I tell him how I feel, but growing up in a household where my parents often shut down and stopped talking out of anger, I didn’t exactly have shining examples to learn from. No wonder I struggle even today with open, direct, and honest communication.
On the topic of communication, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
Women have always believed that the goal of communication is to bridge, connect, clarify, and facilitate understanding. We have often developed this skill and been good communicators.
Then we find that in our work lives, communication is used in quite different ways than we had realized. Communication is used to manipulate, control, confuse, and intimidate—to create barriers rather than to bridge them. Success is intimately linked with this confusing and confounding form of communication. We are told that we have to play the game.
Later we find out that the people we admire often are very direct and refuse to play the game. We have been tempted to abandon our communication skills when we sorely need them.
In the early years of my career, I have often longed for the ability to manipulate and control others with my words, believing mistakenly that this is true power. Now I see that true power lies in the ability to motivate, encourage, and inspire. To build others up and bring out the best in them. You do not have to be domineering to have power, and indeed, the people who are often have the least power (not unlike the relationship between cockiness and insecurity). People resent them.
I have learned so far in my years of working to be more direct. This lesson came fast from witnessing others’ two-sentence replies to my paragraphs of text in interactions over email. I quickly understood that no one had time to filter through my lengthy emails in search of the meaning buried several paragraphs in, and that short, quick replies were far more effective in business. You often don’t need as much backstory as you may think.
In my relationships, I have learned (often the hard way) that to tell someone directly that I am angry or hurt is far preferable and leads to a much faster resolution than burying my hurt until it builds to resentment and eventually explodes out in a fit of anger. Communication is our chance to be honest with ourselves and the world. We should not squander or misuse it.