Human interaction and expression is laced with complications – it’s layered with the unspoken, overshadowed, and misinterpreted. Half the time, what should be a straightforward communication becomes an escalating or devolving inconclusive mess.
It can be frustrating attempting to sort through a tangled assortment of thoughts and feelings. Adamant opinions can become smeared by second guessing like raindrops on a painting – things become increasingly fogged and vague, and mutual understanding evermore elusive. Things shouldn’t be so complicated, but we’re humans – we get awkward and angry, we become uncertain or insecure, and straight lines bend, twist, and break.
More and more, I find tremendous relief and value in communication based simply on speaking truthfully. It is liberating to say what you need to say, how you mean to say it – and in turn, to listen to others in a way that allows them to do the same.
On plenty of occasions, I’ve entered into a conversation to address a misunderstanding or to bring to light something that upset me, with a solid, firm understanding of my stance. But what I failed to realize was how everything would change when the singular thought process confined to my own perspective, would open up to a dynamic, two-way street. Fairly quickly, clear marches became defensive backpedaling. I would find myself second-guessing my own convictions, diluting what I wanted to express, and feeling the pedestal on which I stood to proclaim my perspective deteriorating beneath my feet. I would be left in a pile of my own dismantled thoughts, unable to effectively articulate my stance, won-over to the other person’s view – and hazily exit a situation I had entered lucidly. Frustrating, not to mention, an ineffective way to communicate.
I’ve realized the differences – extreme or subtle – that exist among people and their opinions can also exist among an individual’s own opinions. In realizing this, and in embracing an awareness of the fluidity of my own thoughts, I can steadfastly present my stance while remaining open-minded to a differing (potentially illuminating) viewpoint. This shift in perspective means that opposing opinions do not shatter a brittle perspective, but rather engage with it – effective communication is not a battle but an interaction.
Beyond this, there is also great importance in communicating in a way that emanates from a source of personal truths. Often we inhibit the freedom of our truths. Perhaps this is because we fear other’s perception of us and what image our words have the potential to craft – inadvertently – if we don’t choose them carefully. We know that once statements are made and impressions are formed, they are stubbornly resistant to second chances or change. They are unleashed and then they’re no longer within our grasp.
So we communicate peripherally – our inability to be deliberate and come what may causing us to stifle our thoughts. We calculate our responses; we cater our comments to an ultimate end goal: the maintenance of some image. Or perhaps, the avoidance of another. We never wish to appear needy or jealous or insecure. We don’t want to come off as weak or annoying or shallow or mean. So we circumvent the direct route of expression for fear that we may accidentally become associated with any such undesirable descriptor.
But words precede actions, and actions are an extension of character and identity. In order to best be ourselves – and to be our best selves – we have to exude that honest identity as often as possible – in all forms. If who we attempt to be in words clashes with who we are at our core, then an uncomfortable, internal disconnect develops, and is likely to impede authentic growth.
If we coddle our convictions it dilutes our ability to intuit what we do or don’t want, need, feel, and that is an immense sacrifice. There is a difference between being open-minded and treating tenacious opinions like ambiguous possibilities; the former is conducive to growth, but the latter is crippling to our instincts. If I can’t act accordingly when I know something for certain, how will I ever act effectively when I have doubts? That’s why there is power in making a habit of using the words at our disposal to make clear, strong statements that convey what we intend, and proclaim what we mean.
It’s easy enough to stifle the formation of clear thoughts – and resolute proclamations – when they represent something we’d rather suppress. We all have our insecurities, things we’d rather not admit to ourselves let alone say aloud, but these inner stirrings are real, whether they are shrouded in thick, dark blankets and kept out of sight, or brazenly painted across the forefront of our minds, in bright colors too vivid to ignore. The only difference is, when we decide to articulate these thoughts – even if only to ourselves, we limit their power and increase our own. We control how they manifest. If I paint my skeletons in deliberate, enunciated truths, they cannot conduct secret, malicious meetings while they lurk in darkness where I can’t see them.
If I speak about what makes me anxious or uncertain – I take the first step to illuminate the shadows of my doubt. I take my shortcomings and I put them where I can see them and deal with them – where others can see them and accept or forgive them – as opposed to keeping them trapped where they will inevitably grow more noxious the longer they’re cut off from air. If I let someone know how I feel honestly, I not only create an opportunity for dialogue, but set a precedent for honest interaction.
There’s a tremendous liberating strength in saying exactly what you feel and fear and think. If it is terrifying, it’s at least equally as empowering. Truth comes in many sizes and forms – and it deserves conviction. Every instance in which something resonates in us with great certainty, we have the opportunity to sharpen our instincts and polish our intuitions – gifts forgotten often, but not nearly as often as they’re needed. This not only allows for authentic personal growth, but lays the foundation for honest, meaningful communication with others.