Directness of speech

We are often scared when we needn’t be.

Why is it we are so fearful of speaking directly to another person? I am continually amazed that – regardless of hierarchy or rank – we choose passiveness over direct conversation. It seems that we take an ostrich approach: pretend I don’t hear the negativity or inference, and it must not exist; or, if I’m lucky, it may go away entirely. Maybe we feel more professional or diplomatic when not speaking directly, but let me share with you a quiet secret:

I think that we choose silence and do not address directly because we are scared.

Maybe we fear the consequences of direct speech. Will our directness be interpreted as criticism? Will our directness open the door to directness aimed back at us (you know, like spitting into the wind)? Will our directness demand that we actually take action to make something better? Will our directness result in strained relationships?

I have to say that when I first began to speak directly, my shoulders lightened and there was a sense of freedom. There became an effectiveness of action because, simply, I had access to more information – those with whom I was speaking directly offered more, revealed more, engaged more.

And let me clarify: I’m not referring to directness of speech as free reign towards meanness. Directness is not bullying. On the contrary, it is a recognition of unspoken, non-verbal speech as a way to further and deepen all our conversations. Of course there are those who do not receive direct speech well – maybe because they’re not accustomed, or maybe for larger reasons.

Direct speech, paired with true seeking and true collaboration, is a phenomenal lubricant to the cogs of our lives and of our actions. You should totally try it.


  1. I completely agree, yet I struggle with it myself; I find that often I am afraid of it. Yet, when others are direct with me, I trust them more and engage more. Any thoughts on how one can better practice this - through the fear?

  2. Your honesty is beautiful, Erin.

    Two ideas:
    * Why not start small - with those you already trust?
    * And also in low-risk scenarios - if it doesn't go well, there are fewer dramatic consequences

  3. mmmm...Yes - that seems sound. Funny how the most direct and simple solutions are so easy to overlook! I shall practice and report back!


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