Clear is kind
Why speaking my truth with clarity is the most powerful tool in my kit
In Brene Brown’s book, Dare to Lead, she mentions this slogan which she first heard in an AA meeting and the words penetrated my brain. Clear is kind.
Clear is kind. People so often try to hide behind vagaries or attempt to “soften the blow” of their thoughts and feelings by being ambiguous. Who does “beating around the bush” protect? Only me. If I am unclear about what I think or feel, the person I am speaking to will come up with their own stories about the situation. They will either be hurt or immobilized by my inability to express myself clearly. My fear of hurting someone’s feelings is what sets the stage for hurt feelings. The road to hell is, as they say, paved with good intentions.
Think about work. If I scan back over the past decades, my mind touches on countless projects where bosses, managers or even clients didn’t articulate what they really wanted. I either wasted hours doing things the way I deemed correct and was later told to redo it, or I was too afraid to move ahead with something that seemed too unclear, so the project ground to a halt as I waited for clarity.
Clarity is a skill — and not a difficult one to learn. Clarity is a key that can unlock doors. Clarity is a tool that can clear air and create alignment.
Clarity is a two-way street. I can speak unarguably: expressing my feelings and thoughts about a situation as feelings and thoughts (not accusations or victimization) and I can also ask for specifics from others. Creating clear agreements with other people — what needs to be done, by whom and by when — is a beautiful kindness both at work and at home.
When April desperately wanted to buy art supplies and makeup for cosplay but didn’t have enough money, we created a clear agreement.
This agreement stated:
- what she would do (clean the bathrooms five times)
- when she would do it (by 6 pm on Monday of each week)
We wrote this down and signed and dated it so that each time she felt hard-done-by for her plight of having to clean bathrooms, she could remember that she had agreed to this in order to get something she wanted. The agreement was posted on the fridge as a beacon of clarity in a world filled with vague and half-fulfilled promises. Honouring this agreement was a matter of integrity.
Back to feelings. Many of us have spent our lives fearing their power or believing that it’s inappropriate to express our feelings (especially the negative ones) in most settings. There is nothing wrong with speaking your truth. Telling someone that you are feeling angry is totally okay. Yelling at them is not. When you allow emotions to come to light, they dissipate quickly. When you bury them they tend to fester.
Telling someone that when they said X, you felt Y and the thoughts you had about it were Z is a simple and clear way to express big feelings and build intimacy and connection with others.
Speaking your truth isn’t about blame. It’s about expressing the facts of a situation and then telling the other person how you feel about what happened and the stories you are making up as a result. This is without question one of the most powerful tools I have in my kit.