We tend to communicate in two ways: verbal and non-verbal. Verbal communication uses words, either in speech or in writing. Our speech ranges from direct and unambiguous to indirect and qualified, and everything in between. Some find direct speech intimidating and almost assaulting; some find indirect speech mealy-mouthed and almost cowardly.
My friend Jim has never been a direct speaker. He couches almost everything with lots of hesitation and qualification. I guess he learned to be careful earlier in life in order to preserve his options and his privacy.
Jim’s style of communicating can drive me nuts. I always found it difficult to know what he was thinking or wanting. Over time he learned to trust me and now is a bit more direct. I discovered early on that I was not going to change Jim so I had to adjust if we were to remain friends, as we have for the last 30 years.
I on the other hand tend to shoot from the hip. Over time I’ve learned to qualify my statements so as not to be misunderstood. Yet usually there is little ambiguity in what I say and write. I want all my words to have meaning and weight so that others know that I mean what I say and say what I mean.
The upside of my direct communication is clarity. The downside is that some people who are uncomfortable with direct speakers may feel intimidated. But at least they know where I stand and can respond accordingly. I also like to be clear up front in order to entice my listener into a give-and-take discussion, and then introduce nuance as needed.
Somewhere between these two styles is a range of combinations of direct and indirect speech. Some of this constitutes a “scatter-shot” style, whereby bursts of chatter, stream-of-consciousness changing of subjects, and verbiage for its own sake dominate. Sometimes people who use this style of communicating are working out their own stuff internally and may or may not respond to conversational questions and requests for clarity. Or they may just like to hear the sound of their own voice!
Verbal communication can result in a change of life when it originates in our hearts as well as our minds, when we listen actively to each other, and when we approach each other with positive regard (known as love). This almost-magical alchemy enables us to grow together as lovers and friends and to find wholeness in ourselves and the other. How conscious are you about your style of verbal communication? How might you open yourself more fully to the styles others employ? Where and with whom are you experiencing real intimacy through verbal communication?
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