Communication is good, right? Personally, I believe it’s near impossible to have a healthy, rewarding relationship without it. Sure, the degree of required communication is dependent upon your degree of familiarity with the person you’re communicating with. However, can open communication ever be destructive, even when the communicator thinks they are providing a useful message for the receiver? Think about what you are about to communicate, and then try to predict how your receiver will react. Is the message volatile or sensitive enough to ruin the relationship you currently have? In that case, it’s best to think twice. Sounds easy enough, right?
Take this story, for instance. I know a woman that, for her entire life, carried resentment about how her father raised her. This story begins when she was 50 years old and her dad was 72. She felt she had been nurtured and supported as much as she needed when she was growing up. Her dad was a”hard-liner”. All of us know the type. A man made of largely discipline and not enough encouragement, keeping his feelings to himself. Something compelled the woman to spill her guts and write her father a letter. In this letter she described how she felt about her relationship with her father. She pointed out many of the shortcomings in her life and how she felt he was the cause of them because she”didn’t get what she needed from him”. She pointed out these things in a very polite manner; clearly assuming her father would understand and feel compassion for her. What actually happened was quite the contrary. The father was very upset after reading her letter and felt that he was being assaulted. What was once an acceptable relationship was broken beyond repair. At the time the daughter wrote the letter, she believed it would help her to get those things off her chest and did not take the time to ponder how her father would deal with such things.
The case above could be considered”bad communication” as it damaged the relationship it was meant to improve. Here are some things you may want to take into account before initiating a conversation with a person, especially when your message comprises sensitive, blaming or possibly negative information.
1. What do you expect to accomplish with your message?
2. Try to predict how your audience will react. Are you prepared for an unexpected outcome?
3. Is it so important that you get your message across that it is worth the risk of breaking the relationship? Sometimes it may be, such as a case with a friend or spouse.
4. If you predict that your message can cause undesirable effects, you may want to use a good friend or relative as a sounding board, so that you can clear your thoughts of your own thoughts. Even more so, it can be quite useful for you to write the person a letter but not send it. I believe this works better than spilling your guts to another party.
5. You may ask advice from a close friend or family member (especially if they know the recipient of this message). However, always make the final decision about what to do. Your adviser likely has nothing to lose and might not give you appropriate advice in the matter.
Because of this, care must always be taken on how best to communicate sensitive information. Can communication be a bad thing? I think it always depends on the circumstances. Sometimes you will need to choose to hold back or potentially lose the relationship.