It’s never too late…
…to say what you want. I’ve previously written on l’esprit de l’escalier, staircase wit, which is when you come up with what would have been the perfect response to a situation that already passed; essentially, wit post-facto. In that scenario one of course can’t go back and say what they would have liked to say due to the temporal nature of the moment, but I’ve realized that most of what we want to say to people is not so tightly bound by time.
Communication is key amongst people in personal and professional settings alike. Most know this but only partially execute. I break down communication into two types: easy and hard. I define hard communication as that which causes fear and anxiety on the part of the communicator; difficult conversations. Everything else is easy communication, because it’s easy.
Naturally, most people don’t have too much of an issue with easy communication. If people are communicating at all, they will tend to excel at the easy communication. And since for most people, most communication is easy, most people are communicating most of what they should. Since one could theoretically only engage in the easy communication, skirt all hard communication, and potentially communicate 99% of the communications they are meant to, it’s easy to see how one could in that scenario lull themselves into thinking they’re a great communicator. I think reality often jives with this situation. But this of course ignores the relative importance of easy versus hard communication.
In my life I’ve noticed that the hard communication tends to be much more important the easy; at times it feels like by order of magnitude scale factors. In some cases it’s only really the hard conversations that matter, though rapport building and general communication is also very important to various types of relationships. So a model that represents the effectiveness of communication for many is fundamentally flawed and at the core of the issue is importance of hard communication which, by its nature, is hard.
Because of the anxiety around hard conversations, we sometimes simply don’t have them. When they’re planned, we’re maybe a bit more likely to follow through. But what happens when there’s something tough you want to say in the moment to a friend, colleague, or lover, and you simply don’t quite have the guts to say it?
In the past, I’ve kicked myself for not saying what I should have said and ruminated on my failing. But what I’m now realizing is that this situation isn’t quite like l’esprit de l’escalier because you have an ongoing relationship with the person. It may not be ideal to bring up the awkward towel incident from last Thursday on Monday, but it’s better to bring it up later than never if you there’s something you had really wanted to say. Honestly, for a while, I never even considered that you could bring a topic up later; that move simply wasn’t in my toolkit. You don’t have to always to resurface issues, though.
Sometimes the heat of the moment informs what you want to say, and sometimes that’s the right thing to say and other times it’s not. But this is easy to resolve since I’m talking about what ought to be said after the fact, presumably after the initial raw feelings have at least somewhat faded. The simple test is, after the emotions have subsided, do you still want to say what you wanted to say? If you do, you should probably make a point of saying it.
I’ve recently had to say make hard statements in personal relationships. Some I planned them out and, delivery aside, I’m glad I delivered them. At others I missed golden opportunities and stressed myself out, forlorn, but realized I could manufacture some bronze opportunities to quell the pain. In no case do I regret saying the hard things and in every case I feel better generally after having said it. At times I’m throwing a wrench in or potentially destroying a relationship, but the authenticity and truthfulness grounds and settles me.
All in all this seems good and I intend to say what I want; what I really think, to a few others. This ties in closely with the concept of radical transparency, which is basically what its name suggests. A good friend of mine has been taking radical transparency to, well, radical levels, which I guess is the whole point, and seems to be having good success with that. Radical transparency can be incredibly hard communication because you’re making uncomfortable claims and admissions. I’m yet sure if I always want to employ radical transparency, but I’m moving towards it. I’m always moving backwards.
There are people that I’ve loved and people that I’ve hurt that have fallen deep into my past. The pangs of longing, sorrow, guilt, and remorse still reverberate for many. I’m going to talk to those I still talk to, and write to those I don’t. It’s time to give myself, and hopefully others closure on some matters smaller and larger. I can’t think of a better way to end an essay than action.