Why is it so hard sometimes to get a clear and truthful answer? We deal daily with many truth detours. Whatever happened to telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Why do we fear the truth? Is it because we are hiding something? Is it because we don't know the answer and don't want to reveal that we don't know? Are we too lazy to find out? Are we afraid of being wrong? Are we desperate to avoid conflict?
Children fear telling the truth because they don't want to get in trouble. Is that why so many grownups also avoid straight talk? And what about “little white lies?” What exactly is a little white lie? How about when we tell partial truths, but not the whole truth, in order to intentionally mislead. If we understand that the definition of a lie is: the intention to deceive, we have a clearer picture of what a lie is.
Lack of clear and direct speaking, as well as lying, has become the communication style of our time. I think speakers are often unclear in their wording to allow for a variety of interpretations rather than taking a definite stance. Without clarity, we do not have honest communication. Vague, if not cryptic, communication can be used as a get-out-of-jail free card. It leaves room for the speaker to later respond with such phrases as, “That's not that I meant” or “You’re taking my words out of context.”
Scripture tells us, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’” (Matthew 5:37) Keep it simple. It is important to communicate with only the words needed. Do you ever walk away from a conversation or presentation feeling confused about what was said? Good speakers speak concisely. They do not overwhelm with words. Too many words usually means that the person is trying to control what you think.
In counseling, we teach couples and families that it is imperative to paraphrase what they heard each other say. If something that was stated is unclear, the listener should ask for clarification. This helps tremendously with eliminating vague, possibly intentionally misleading communication. Asking for clarification as well as paraphrasing what each heard the other say aids clarity and greatly reduces the get-out-of-jail-free tactics of spinning (using favorable and misleading words to make the story sound more acceptable), avoiding, or shutting down difficult discussions. It does not help a relationship to choose lack of clarity.
The speaker in a conversation must always be clear in his or her own mind about what message needs to be conveyed. Stop at various points and ask the listener to paraphrase what they heard you say. Ask if you are being clear. Give him or her a chance to ask questions or make comments. When you are the listener, periodically ask to repeat back what you understood the other person to say. And ask for clarification on things that did not make sense to you. A good listener listens to not only the words being said, but also tries to “hear” unspoken messages and emotions. The goal of effective communication is to seek and speak truth. Healthy communication does not allow for spinning and avoiding. If clear communication is not practiced, there is no reason to talk and listen because productive communication will not happen.
The best communication happens when people are direct, trustable, and safe to talk to. We need to talk and speak with compassion and understanding from the heart and without judgment.
Blessings to you,