Just say it!
Occasionally the people in Hollywood who write and produce television shows have a moment of brilliance and delight us by broadcasting a 30-minute weekly sitcom that is intelligent, humorous, entertaining, and actually worth sitting down and watching.
The standard productions are the frustratingly dense programs that have little or no redeeming value.
One of the common tensions in TV shows is poor communication between the characters, which generates all kinds of problems. How many times have you observed that if the characters just had clear story lines, their fictitious selves would have much less drama in their faux lives?
Drama is what Hollywood wants to create, but doing so in your own life can be painful and costly in your real relationships.
A significant slice of our relational problems could, at the least, be markedly reduced if we just communicated clearly.
That reminds me of the college student who didn’t have the nerve to ask his father directly for what he needed. So he mailed his dad the following note:
“$chool i$ really great. I am making lot$ of friend$ and $tudying very hard. I $imply can’t think of anything I need, $o if you would like, you can just $end me a card, a$ I would love to hear from you.
“Love, your $on.”
The father responded with a note of his own:
“I kNOw that AstroNOmy, ecoNOmics, and oceaNOgraphy are eNOugh to keep even an hoNOr student busy. Do NOt forget that the pursuit of kNOwledge is a NOble task, and you can never study eNOugh.
Sometimes by communicating clearly we get the same response, sometimes we don’t. But even when the answer may be the same, communicating clearly can deepen our relationships. It is the means for better understanding one another, which can lead to greater empathy, compassion, and cooperation. It certainly eliminates having to try to read the mind of someone else, which — just like in the sitcoms — leads to a lot of misunderstanding, if not even heartache.
Imagine if the college student sent the following note to his father:
“My studies are going well, but my adjusting to being on my own for the first time has been rocky. In fact, I’ve made some bad decisions, I think because I’ve really never really had to make these decisions before. One of the mistakes I’ve made was spending my allowance you provide too quickly, and the result is that I’ve run out of money too soon. I understand the mistake I made, and know how to correct it. In the meantime, I was wondering if you could find it in your heart to send me a little extra cash as a means to help me bridge the gap I’ve created. I understand if you decide not to do so, I just want you to know I’ve learned my lesson about managing my money better and won’t let it happen again. I appreciate all you do for me, and could use your mercy right about now.
“Love, your hungry son.”
An honest letter like that might have gotten a response like this:
“I appreciate your being honest with me about your plight. To be honest on my part, my initial response was to feel frustrated and leave you to learn a lesson the hard way, as you would likely not forget it, and that could benefit you. But then I thought about the many mistakes I’ve made in my own life, and the times when people have had compassion on me regarding my own poor decisions. I’ve enclosed a check to help you out, but know that I expect you will have learned a lesson from this experience because there won’t be additional checks in the future. But also know when you really do need to rely on someone, I’m always here for you. Always.
There are any number of ways a story like this could go, but do you see how communicating clearly can deepen and enrich our relationships?