Being Too Direct or Not Direct Enough — Here’s Help
Written for In Care of Relationships by Terri Crosby
ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.
There are folks who speak their mind without hesitation — like the Witness in the above interchange.
I also know people who do not have a direct bone in their body. They barely say what they say. Some avoid conflict at all costs.
While it is clear to me that I’m certainly on the “speak up” side of the equation (I was born with some spunk, I’d say) there are also times when I notice I hold back and don’t say what I think. Perhaps most of us straddle the line here and there. We do a little of each.
Whether you feel you need to speak up more — or less — here’s help for both sides of the question.
In an excellent Huffington Post article Free Yourself By Being Direct, author Joyce Marter says, “Being direct and assertive involves being honest and genuine while remaining appropriate, diplomatic and respectful of yourself and others. It is not passive (being a doormat or a wimp), passive-aggressive (indirect communication, like not returning calls or emails hoping somebody gets the hint) or aggressive (being hostile and rude.)”
She gives examples of situations in which it may be scary or difficult to be direct, talks about what keeps people from being direct, and gives reasons why being direct is a good thing.
On the other hand, if your directness is not working for you or others, here’s an article on the other side of the coin: “Too Direct? Five Ways To Dial It Back.” by Mary Jo Asmus.
She says, “An overly direct leader can be abrupt. They may not recognize when they have not provided the care and time needed to speak to others in such a way that there is a give and take in the conversation. They may appear to have an attitude of “its my way or the high-way”. They may be rushed, and may not be fully present in the conversation. An emotional hot button in the leader may be hit, and their tone of voice may escalate and become more insistent.”
She gives five good ways to soften an overly direct approach and says, “You can still be honest and direct without crossing the line into bluntness and shutting others down.”
What’s Good About Being Direct
All in all, the most valuable thing about being direct is that it gives us the golden opportunity to wake up wherever we are.
Ka-POW! She said what?!? And I reacted how? And what does that show me about myself? Is there anything I prefer to shift about that? What can I learn here?
Ka-POW! I said what?!? Did you hear what just came out of my mouth? And he reacted how? And did that work? Was my communication successful? Is there a more effective way I could have made my point? How can this help me?
Everybody wins when everyone is awake.