Why do some people have such a hard time being direct? Many people prefer to skirt issues by being passive or passive-aggressive instead of being open, honest, and direct about what is bothering them. They may fear hurting the other person's feelings or anticipate a bad outcome. Sometimes people go to great lengths to avoid conflict and end up lying about trivial things because they are convinced that the other person will be upset. Ironically, the truth eventually comes out and the individual is more upset that you chose to withhold the information even though it seemed insignificant.
Behaving in a passive aggressive manner might entail choosing to ignore something bothering us or punishing the person in an indirect way, like not talking to them for a while. When we choose to internalize a conflict and dwell on the upset rather than speaking directly to the person, we don't give the person the opportunity to apologize or make amends. Often we have decided that they should somehow know that we're upset or that something is wrong in the relationship. Electronic messaging has made direct and discernible communication even harder since it is difficult to convey emotion and motive through text messages or email. Unfortunately, people often prefer this mode of communication since they can share an uncomfortable issue or topic without having to have a face-to-face conversation.
Direct, open conversation is the best way to resolve difficult issues in a relationship. Of course it's important to be respectful and kind when you're communicating directly with others. Remember to focus on the behavior rather than the character of the person, and avoid name calling or passing judgment about their integrity. It's helpful to express your feelings, such as, "I get really frustrated when you leave your dirty dishes in the sink." Also avoid telling them what to do since the solution is often obvious and they may feel like you're treating them like a child, even if their behavior is similar to a child. In general, people respond better to positive expressions than critical and accusatory ones. Remember that how you say it is often more important than what you say, so be aware of your voice and nonverbal expressions. That's why electronic conversations can easily be misinterpreted and are less effective.
As crazy as it sounds, we need to schedule time to sit together and communicate our thoughts and feelings. It is tempting to avoid and deny conflict, but it truly won't go away on its own. People expend too much time, thought, and energy on a conflict in their minds. It is better to say it and leave it. All relationships benefit from direct communication, transparency, and openness even when there are negative feelings involved. When we hold back our conflicts or concerns we eventually will pull back and detach from that person. If you need to say no to someone, do it rather than agreeing to something that you really don't want to do which results in resentment and detachment. Stay connected by sharing directly your thoughts and feelings, even when they are negative. Let's all work on honesty and directness even though it can be scary and painful. Direct communication breeds better connections.