“If you can’t be direct, why be?” That is a great question posed by actress and comedian Lily Tomlin. I have always considered myself a direct person, but I have come to the startling realization over the last several weeks that I may, in fact, not be direct all… or rarely. How is this possible? How did I not know I wasn’t being direct? What does being direct really mean?
Direct, for me, means to be clear about what you are asking or stating. Not beating around the bush. Just coming right out and saying exactly what you are thinking, want or need (in a kind, appropriate way of course).
Case in point. My mom and I were visiting Ken in Utah. One evening we sent him to the store to pick up items for dinner. As he was leaving, I hinted (key word) at wanting some mint chip ice cream (I am an ice cream addict, and yes, I am seeking help). He answered back with, “49 days,” which meant we need to not eat ice cream because the wedding was less than two months away (good point… but I still wanted some).
Ken returns from the store with two bags. One of the bags had an object shaped just like my favorite ice cream (best fiancé ever!). I exclaimed, “I knew it!” I knew he would come back with my ice cream. He caught my hint and delivered. I raced over to him and he smiled at me and said, “I hope it’s a flavor you like…” He slowly pulled out the container of… CASCADE! That’s right folks, Cascade! It was the kind where the dishwasher soap comes in pods, and the pods are housed in a container that looks just like ice cream.
I was so disappointed. But, as my mother reminded me, if I had been direct with Ken and clearly stated I wanted ice cream – I would have had my ice cream instead of Cascade!
This is a silly example of not being direct, but it really did cause me to reflect on the ways I communicate. Often times I am not direct about what I really want. “Honey, is it cold in here?” is a question I often ask instead of saying, “Honey, I am cold. I am going to turn off the air.” Over the years I have gotten into the habit of asking questions, alluding to what I want, and in some ways manipulating the result. I disguise my questions in a cloak of accommodation. If I ask a question then it will come across that I am truly being sensitive and accommodating to the other person, instead of pushing onto them what I want. Not so. What I thought looked like accommodation, in fact, is dressed up in manipulation. Not always, but on more occasions than I care to admit.
Here is a classic one. Ken will ask me, “Where would you like to eat?” My response, “Doesn’t matter, wherever you want.” Sometimes I know exactly what I want to eat, but because I want to be open to what he wants I won’t say it. We then go in circles because he wants to accommodate me (and all my food allergies) and I don’t want to be the pushy girl who will always answer, “The Habit!” In these cases I am not manipulating, I am really trying to accommodate. But, I am discovering (which is the whole purpose of this blog and eventual book) that I need to express what I want. I need to be direct… and there is nothing wrong with that. We may settle on something other than The Habit, but at least I can clearly state what I want. That matters, and Ken appreciates the direct answer.
Of course this applies to much bigger issues in life. People want and need to hear the truth or hear what YOU have to say. Like Lily said, “If you can’t be direct, why be?” We need to feel free to be us, in a respectful and loving manner, and say what we are thinking and not be so concerned about what others will think or say. I certainly appreciate when someone is upfront and direct with me, don’t you? We are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. I want people to be direct with me, therefore I shall be direct in return.
Awareness is the first step. I am there. Putting into action is the second step. Baby steps for me, but I will get there.