For starters: in this conversation, the idea of the straight
shooter's communication doesn't equate to "saying what's on
If I tell the truth about it, I actually don't have much sway over
what's on my mind, and neither do you - and if you say you
do have sway over what's on your mind, then stop
thinking ... Rather, when I refer to the straight
shooter's communication, I'm referring to communicating simply and
directly, not being overly concerned with making a good impression (or
with making a bad impression, for that matter), not being overly
concerned with being liked (or with not being liked) for saying
whatever I'm saying, and not being overly concerned with saying the
wrong thing or saying the right thing.
If you've got something to say, then say it without dressing it
up, without saying it in a way which leaves an out. Most
things are best said directly. In the end, in spite of some possible
initial trepidations, that's the most appreciated way to say things.
Recently a couple I vaguely know, invited me to have dinner with them
at their home. They were entertaining
and they wanted me to join them - they thought I would be a good fit
with the group. Ordinarily I enjoy nothing better than being with
people. The thing is I didn't know this couple well - at least, not
yet. So spending an evening with them, and especially spending an
evening with their
whom I'd never met, would be tantamount to spending an evening in
company in whom I didn't yet know if I wanted to invest my time.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not averse to meeting new people - the evidence
of my life shows that's far from it. But given what I had on my plate,
it wasn't a high priority invitation for me. I thanked the couple for
their kind invitation, and declined.
Did it end there? Oh no. They insisted. They said it would be great.
They wanted their friends to meet me. And I started to notice I
was being drawn in. I started to notice "No" was becoming
harder to say. I started to notice where they had me was I didn't want
to offend them by saying "No" - which could eventually
verge on me saying "Yes" even though I didn't want to go.
I explained my priorities to them (that was a mistake because it
actually was none of their business). Then I said I was "probably busy"
that evening. Then I tried suggesting they ask someone else who may
appreciate the chance to meet new people (weak, and patronizing).
Nothing worked. No matter what I said, they came back insisting I come.
I could tell they weren't going to let up until I did.
What it finally took was something I've only recently become adept at.
"Thank you, but no" I said. Then I added "If you expect me to come,
you will be disappointed. I'll be happy to meet with you one on one
sometime. But I will not be coming to your gathering. And I appreciate
you asking me.".
What's interesting is they got something new like a
possibility out of our exchange. No, they didn't get what
they wanted out of our exchange. But to their credit, they
did get something new. "You're direct. You're a straight shooter. We
like that about you" they said. "I appreciate you noticing" I said.
A woman I know is doing very well in a new business. It's the kind of
business which is sometimes unfairly characterized as multi-level
marketing. That's not what it really is. There are some bona
fide business opportunities out there which do involve
multi-level distribution and sales, a lot of them in fact. This was one
of them - but it's minus the Ponzi scheme overtones. She
and I were engaged in a conversation about her life and our children
and their lives. I was enrolled in her conversation, in the middle of
which she told me about her new business and asked my permission to
send me some samples and an introductory sales kit.
Now here's the thing: I really was enrolled in her conversation about
her life and our children and their lives. And knowing the victory it
is for her to have a business which
it with her. Who wouldn't? But I'm not interested in starting a new
business venture myself. I'm neither looking at nor lacking in that
regard. Her family conversation enrolled me. Glommed
together as it was with her business conversation, the two
were almost one and the same. If I said "Yes" to her family
conversation, could I say "No" to her business conversation? If I
declined her business offer, would I be besmirching her family?
I did have the thought she may have intended that as leverage (Hey!
Isn't leverage what business is all about?) ... but I let it go. Rather
than being the truth, it was simply my
of her intention. Yet neither did I intend to take any time with her
offer of a business opportunity. So, without explanation, apology, or
preface, I answered her question directly: "No. Do not send me any
samples or the introductory sales kit.".
Not "I'll try them.". Not "OK, I'll read the material.". Not "Tell me
more.". Just "No.".
I won't offer my opinion about what she felt when I
declined her offer. We all know when we make offers, they may either
be declined or they may be accepted - that's also what business is all
But she did get my "No". And it diminished neither her business
conversation nor her conversation about her life and our children and
their lives. The truth is people can get me saying "No" just as they
can get me saying "Yes". The thing is to be straight about it.
He was wrestling with his decision to go on vacation in Africa, an
extended vacation actually which might last months, even years. It had
taken him a lot of time and careful planning to put it all together, to
obtain all the required visas, to get all the vaccinations and boosters
he needed, to do research into non‑hostile routes on which to
travel, and much more. He had been planning it for a year and was so
excited about it, it was palatable.
About a month before he was about to leave, he met a nice girl. He told
her about his travel plans. Now he and I are sitting here drinking
frappuccinos as he pours out his heart. He's fallen in
love with her. He doesn't want to go anymore. Although he didn't want
to let anything get in the way of his plans, he's done exactly that.
Now he doesn't want to leave her. And she, given her
can't go to Africa with him. He's at an impasse - and he's about to
give up his life's dream and everything he's so carefully planned.
talk about it.
- back and forth, back and forth, on the one hand this, on the other
hand that. I have no vested interest in what transpires or in what he
decides. I do, however, have a vested interest in him getting certainty
about what he'll choose to do. Where he seems to be stuck is at "I
shouldn't have done this" (ie fallen in love with her). "I knew I was
going to leave when I started with her. I thought I could handle it.".
I can tell he's distraught - torn, in fact.
Eventually after an hour or more of back and forth, I ask him "Well?
Are you going, or not?". And he says "Of course I'm going. This is what
I've always wanted to do. It just sucks that she should
come into my life just as I'm about to leave. And now I have to deal
with these feelings I have for her and about leaving
I'm about to start a new conversation with him, about to go down a new
track with him, a track about intentionality as distinct from feelings.
Briefly (very briefly, but briefly nonetheless) I think it may be of
some use to him in figuring out his dilemma. But I stop. We've been at
this for an hour or more, and so far nothing at all has shifted. So
instead I say "Yes, it does suck ... and ...
you'll go through it.".
That's all I say. Then I stop talking and just watch him.
* * *
I can tell by looking at his now no longer anguished face that he gets
it. Maybe he doesn't like it. But he does get it. He gets
it from one straight communication, from one moment of straight
communication in an hour or more of other attempts to resolve his
dilemma, which went nowhere.