What’s worse than not liking someone else’s opinions or expectations?
I’d say being in the dark about where you stand with that person, because they can’t be- or just won’t be– “up front” with you.
Today, we’re going to wrap up the “productive habits” we’ve been exploring with one last really good habit that every productive woman must learn to cultivate:
The habit of direct communication.
Welcome to our tenth “chapter” in More Productive You: A Guide to Living Well.
Today’s post sort of feels like a mile stone… we’re ten chapters “in” to this series!
If you missed the previous posts in this series, you can catch everything I’ve written so far here.
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Why is healthy communication such a big deal?
As women, we’re all probably pretty great at talking… but that doesn’t really mean we’re great at communication.
My married friends will probably all agree that communication can be a very real challenge between husbands and wives.
George Barnard Shaw is credited to have quipped,
The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Just because we are talking doesn’t mean we are communicating.
Ever been there? 🙂
Now, just because you’re single- or have a really amazing relationship with your husband– doesn’t let you off the hook!
Healthy, direct communication is a skill that will help us all go further in life, no matter what season of life you’re in right now.
If you’ve ever had a friend or family member who just couldn’t
- verbalize expectations
- give an honest opinion
- work through conflict
then you likely know how much frustration a lack of healthy, gracious and direct communication can cause.
Since we want to live and love well,
and because we want to pursue intentional, purposeful and productive lives,
then we women must learn that art of healthy, gracious and direct speech.
Now, if you’re not a wordsmith please don’t get scared!
This isn’t a post about superlative nouns or transitive verbs. 🙂
Really, healthy communication has little to do with grammar and vocabulary- although I’m personally a fan of both– and much to do with emotional growth and maturity.
Today, I’m going to unpack this habit with you.
By the time you reach the end of the “chapter,” my prayer is that you will have discovered truths to help you cultivate healthy, gracious, and direct communication with the people in your life.
Let’s look at four dynamics of direct communication, as they apply to a Christian woman.
Direct Communication is Cautious and Intentional
Do you know someone who always speaks her mind?
We think of these types as “opinionated” or “painfully honest,” and sometimes that’s the image we have of what “direct” communication must look like.
That isn’t necessarily true.
An opinionated woman could in fact be a very poor communicator.
And a less verbal woman can learn to communicate very well.
Scripture provides a vision for this quality of gracious and honest speech.
Consider the following:
(emphasis are mine)
Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” James 1:19
“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer.” Proverbs 15:28
“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” Proverbs 21:23
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Proverbs 10:19
Sometimes, the less said the better.
Direct communication doesn’t always involve speaking up right away, or even speaking at all.
The most healthy communicators are those who use their words carefully, and very much “on purpose.”
Direct Communication is Speaking the Truth in Love
There are times when words are necessary, and when what we have to say may not be well received.
Situations like these might include:
- setting healthy boundaries with friends or family
- times when gentle correction is needed
- lovingly confronting another person (Galatians 6:1)
This is when being honest and direct is most difficult for me.
It’s easier to pretend to agree, and then hope that the other party will either read my mind, get the hint, or just leave me alone so I don’t have to verbalize hard truths.
This isn’t direct or loving communication, and the results are anything but healthy and restorative in relationships.
Again, Scripture paints a vivid canvas of what direct, truthful, and gracious speech actually looks like:
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Ephesians 4:25
“The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.” Psalm 37:30
If we’re not careful, we can say the right thing in the wrong way.
A big part of cultivating healthy communication is learning how to be both honest and gracious.
Direct Communication Involves Verbalizing Limitations & Expectations
When I was younger- in my early and mid twenties- I really struggled with this.
It took many years- and lots of painful experiences– for me to finally learn to be up front with people about what I can and cannot commit myself to in any sphere of life:
- family relationships
- church and ministry projects
- community projects and commitments
- work and volunteer roles
Just last week, during a conversation with homeschool community leaders, someone asked me what I thought my level of involvement would be.
I had to be honest and say that I would not be able to volunteer for certain things.
As silly as it sounds, that wasn’t easy for me to say because I like to be involved in everything! And, quite honestly, I like to look like a responsible, capable woman.
I used to believe that committing to everything made me look smart and capable.
I learned something very different:
Over-committing is a sure way to stress out, burn out, and ultimately under-deliver.
(Remember the law of productivity, you can’t do it all?)
I’ve learned the hard way that jumping into every community, project, or idea with both feet isn’t necessarily a wise thing to do.
The solution is simple, but sometimes difficult:
I had to learn to say “No, I can’t do that right now.”
That’s direct, honest speech in it’s most simplistic form.
Direct Communication Does Not Always Involve a “Third Party”
I once heard a wise woman say, “What can’t be talked about can’t be worked through.”
It’s impossible to grow or maintain healthy relationships- at home, at work, or within the Body of Christ– if we don’t use healthy, direct communication to resolve conflicts.
But have you ever noticed-
It’s really easy to “talk about” problems with everyone except the person we actually have a problem with?
In the world of psychology, there’s a word for this: triangulation.
Triangulation “is a manipulation tactic where one person will not communicate directly with another person, instead using a third person to relay communication to the second, thus forming a triangle.” (source)
It’s a very unhealthy, backhanded form of “communication” that causes a lot of confusion, division and frustration.
Jesus Christ gives us a healthy model of communication and conflict resolution in Matthew chapter 18:
- we are to go directly and privately to the one with whom we have an offense (verse 15)
- if he/she will not listen, we are to bring “one or two more” for the sake of restoration and accountability (verse 16)
The desired result is always restoration, and the method always involves gracious, honest and direct speech.
It sounds so simple, but it can feel so hard to do in real life!
When Healthy Communication Feels Like a Foreign Language
I’ve seen people struggle with direct and gracious communication within the Body of Christ, within families, in business and ministry capacities and even in my own family.
I know that the struggle is real.
I’ve also learned- and am still learning- that there is great freedom and health in learning the “second language” of gracious, honest, and direct speech.
Learning any foreign language is hard, and if healthy communication feels a bit “foreign” to you right now, give yourself some grace.
But do begin the journey.
Do crack the text book.
And do begin to speak gracious and honest words, however faltering it feels at first.
A few great resources for learning healthy, direct communication:
- Boundaries, by Cloud and Townsend
- Changes That Heal, by Cloud and Townsend
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey
Do you struggle with being up front with people about your expectations, limitations, or feelings?
Does the idea of “direct communication” make you want to run and hide?
If so, ask yourself why?
Are you afraid of rejection or conflict?
Find a safe place to begin expressing yourself.
Journaling can feel therapeutic for a lot of people.
Find a trusted confidant, friend, or even a Christian mentor or counselor to “hear you out” as you learn the art of healthy, direct communication.