I’m sure you’ve had these disagreements before. You’re almost ready to tear your hair out, scream, or hit something when it dawns on the other person. “Oh,” they say. “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?” Your first message went misunderstood. The second, muddier still. The third you send is so simple; a four year old child could understand it. (Cue Groucho: “Someone fetch me a four year old child.”)
So why didn’t you say that in the first place?
I saw a graphic online about Zen and the art of happiness by Zen Pencils. As you’ll see in the graphic, a monk scrubbing out the “I” and the “want”, representing ego and desire. All he’s left with is happiness. It’s an Eastern version of Tolstoy’s “If you want to be happy, be.”
So how does this apply to communication?
I’m not saying you need to trek into the wilderness and read a copy of Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance to achieve communication enlightenment. But it might require a bit of ego and desire washing first.
I have said before, a lot of people trip themselves over by trying to sound smart. My advice is…don’t.
If you are staring at the ghost of an email and struggling to come up with something profound, witty, or acerbic, just don’t.
If you are asking for something, ask. If you need an answer to a question, ask. It’s something instinctive. It’s the will to interrogate. We don’t get what we need when we don’t ask for it. If we bury the question, it’s harder for the other side to help us. Many are happy to oblige. If they say no, at least you got your answer.
So here’s my advice to put the Zen back into communication.
So think about what you want to say.
Then just say it.
Yes, that’s really all there is to it!