Firmness and Rudeness ain’t the Same

Growing up, my mom had a ferocious temper and railroaded us into doing things whether we liked her way or not. We were not really given choices. It was her way, always. If any of us disagreed with one of her decisions, it was really awful. She cried, got mad, and cried some more. Even my dad never disagreed with her. He would just cave in or do things his way without telling her.  I grew up with a severe dislike for confrontations or disagreements. As an adult, I go to any lengths to avoid unpleasant conversations or situations. Anytime I have to give some negativity to someone, my stress skyrockets. I have to confess, sometimes it’s challenging to avoid disagreements. Life is not a continuum of affirmatives and unending pleasantries. Avoiding displeasing conversations or situations is not always practical or possible. Every life has moments, events that require us to convey unpleasant messages or news to someone, i.e., kids, relatives, a spouse, a friend, or a subordinate.  In Jeddah, I had helpers who were nothing short of criminals. It took tremendous effort on my part to confront them after the loss of money and things. I am sure my Jeddah friends remember the ladies, two of our infamous (and occasionally only) maids.  I am learning that it’s alright to talk about a topic that’s uncomfortable or appears hostile. Recently, we had a helper from one of the agencies, and the work quality was poor, to say the least. She quickly learned that she could get away with not following directions, and I will not get mad at her.  Whenever I told her pleasantly she had to correct something or do something extra, she smiled and did things her usual way. My directives were not followed, and it was causing a mess in the house. Luckily, she had to leave due to a lack of vaccination, and now we have another helper. I learned my lesson with the previous helper, and I always my new helper firmly when she does not follow the directions or skips part of her work. A few weeks ago, she left while I was out. When I asked her the next day, she told me a time close to her clock-out time. I was home during that time, and she had already left. I told her that I was home, and she wasn’t in the house.Also, I told her that her clock-out time could easily be checked as our building requires all workers to leave their kids at a management desk, and there are cameras everywhere. This message was delivered firmly with no anger whatsoever, and I felt so relaxed afterward. Firmness and Rudeness are mutually exclusive categories of communication.  Delaying unpleasant messages will not improve a situation and might make things worse. Also, it does matter how a message is delivered. Exact words can have different effects due to how they are said. Communication is most effective when it’s done at the right time and in a  suitable context.

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