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Honest, direct communication should be given

Lighthouse column
By: Angela Ponivas Special to The News Messenger
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Honest, direct communication should be given By Angela Ponivas Special to The News Messenger Have you ever struggled to speak honestly and directly? I did for years, and occasionally, I still do. It’s not uncommon, particularly if you care about others. The reason we struggle is usually because we are afraid of the receiver’s reaction. We don’t want to hurt their feelings and perhaps we worry that we will not express ourselves as we’d like. However, as with anything, the more we practice honest, direct communication, the more comfortable we become with it. There are tremendous benefits to being an honest, direct communicator. One of the greatest benefits is that individuals who communicate in an honest, direct manner are actually easier to be around. This is because no one is wondering where they stand. When I was dating, if I determined that I did not want to take the relationship further, I would immediately tell the person, almost as quickly as I knew. Some of my friends thought this was bold and even cold but I disagreed. I felt that it was more respectful to the guy to not “lead him on.” He knew where he stood with me. Relationships take time to form, but at some point, we can reasonably expect a clear definition of what that relationship is and what the boundaries of it are. Sometimes we don’t know what we want in a relationship. Sometimes, the other person doesn’t know. But the sooner we can define a relationship, with the help of the other, the sooner we can decide on an appropriate course of conduct for ourselves. It is confusing to be in relationships and not know where we stand – whether this is on the job, in a friendship, with family members or in a love relationship. In healthy relationships, we have a right to be direct about how we define the relationship while the other person also has the freedom to define the relationship. If the definitions clash, we are free to make a new decision. When we are not honest and direct in a relationship, the results can be mistreatment, passive aggressive behaviors, irritation and other negative feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Those negative feelings, thoughts and behaviors breed insecurity and confusion in the other person. Therefore, honesty and directness is the only policy. It is healthiest to set relationship boundaries. If someone wants a more intense relationship than we do, we can be clear and honest about what we want, and about our intended level of participation. We can tell someone what to reasonably expect from us because that is what we want to give. How the person deals with that is his or her decision. We can even define relationships with our children. The clearer we can become on defining relationships, the more we can take care of ourselves in that relationship. Information is a powerful tool and having the information about what a particular relationship is – the boundaries and definitions of it – will empower us to take care of ourselves in it, while treating the other person with the proper respect. Angela Ponivas is the Lighthouse Counseling & Family Resource Center’s executive director. Her phone is 645-3300 and Web site is lighthousefrc.com.