Authentic Responsibility #9: When I do not understand any type of communication, I am responsible to ask for clarification without apology.
I’m struggling writing this because this is the most difficult of the authentic responsibilities for me. In fact, I’m in a situation now that is basically a result of me not following this authentic responsibility, a result of me not being clear with my communication and not asking for clarity when I don’t know. There’s this guy I know who, every time he touches me, entangles me emotionally and keeps me hung up for weeks. I like and respect him in so many ways, but even more, I feel a deep connection with him from my end that leaves me wrecked and confused every time we interact. And the wrecked, confused me knows that my wrecked confusion is my fault because I haven’t been authentically responsible by asking for or giving clarification about our non-verbal communications. In addition, I have continued to make assumptions in my mind about what is really happening in these exchanges—which is nothing, because I know that he is a mercy gift who needs touch and, understanding this, I allow it. The truth is, something is happening to me: I’m attached to him and going crazy.
Authentic responsibility #9 says that we should seek clarification for any type of communication that we do not understand. Proverbs 28:26 says, “Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.” Leaning not to our own understanding is central to this responsibility, and here are a two ways to swallow your pride and walk safely in wisdom:
- When in doubt, ask. When you don’t know what is going on, the logical thing to do is to ask for clarification as soon as there’s a question. Don’t wait—just do it! Quite honestly, this is exactly what I should be doing in my situation. But the hold up is pride masked as fear—fear of the response. Will they think I’m stupid? Will they laugh at me for being vulnerable? The answer is maybe. The reality is who cares! You are not responsible for what they think of you; you are responsible for only accepting those judgments of you that YOU think are valid. You are not stupid, and vulnerability is beautiful. So throw off fear and pride and ask for clarification—without apology.
- When not in doubt, ask anyway! Sometimes, we apply our own understanding to the situation and it ends up being wrong. In my current situation, I’m assuming that nothing is happening behind these non-verbal exchanges—but I really don’t know if that’s true. And even if I’m right, the best scenario is to confirm it, not assume it. A good waiter who takes your order at a restaurant will read it back to you to make sure he got it right. He is confirming, even though he may not be in doubt about what you ordered. If you appreciate that with your food, imagine how much others would appreciate you confirming what you hear them say, what they need, or what you mean in your verbal and non-verbal communications. Imagine a world with fewer communication errors: it’s a safer, wiser place to live, isn’t it?
Proverbs 18:2 says, “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” Don’t be a fool! Seek understanding in your communications with others. Now if you all will excuse me, I must go pray for the opportunity to have a difficult, clarifying conversation.
When have you needed clarification about a communication with someone? How did you get it?