“Clear is kind, unclear is unkind”
When you hear something like that coming from both horse trainers and self-help gurus, someone like myself takes note. As a self-admitted conflict avoider, one of the greatest gifts I got in my 30’s was getting more comfortable with conflict. I wish I had gained that earlier, but a concept like clear is kind, unclear is unkind is really helpful in helping make that jump.
From the horse’s mouth
Just for grins, imagine you’re a horse. You don’t understand English, and your rider is pulling on your reins. It’s kind of the same way they pull on your face when they want you to stop, but you’re already stopped. Then they change and pull on one rein. They drop that rein and kick and pull with both reins again. Next they stop doing that and start wiggling their butt in the saddle. Now the other rein, then the two reins again….oh my gosh, is your brain fried yet? My pretend horse brain sure is.
What in the world does this person want from me? These are unclear signals, and what this rider is putting you (neigh…you’re the horse remember?) through is unkind, even if that isn’t the intention.
Instead imagine the rider stops you, and keeps pulling on those reins. You’re a little confused because usually when you stop they stop pulling. But they just sit there with consistent pressure on those reins. You bob your head, nothing changes. Then you take a step back and the pressure goes away. Hmmm. The rider pulls gently on the reins again just like they did that first time. Tentatively you take another step back and the pressure goes away. Huh. Next thing you know they do it again, you take two steps back this time and the pressure goes away and you get a nice little neck scratch. Bingo!
That simple, consistent pressure when you’re stopped means back up. Got it. That ride is clear and kind. You’re a happy horse.
So how does that apply to adulting advice?
Now step out of those horseshoes, and do you see how this translates into humans? When you are frustrated because your teammate isn’t carrying their share of the work on a project you’re both working on, does beating around the bush, hinting and jabbing different ways, or making sarcastic comments under your breath help? Would it be more kind to just share with them that you are frustrated they aren’t doing the work they said they would do? You can be clear and kind at the same time. Kind is polite, respectful, and considerate, but you can still communicate your frustration in a clear way.
So, take a deep breath, pick up those reins, and send clear and kind messages.