Honest, Direct and Respectful
by Erin Kenworthy, Director of Religious Exploration
Winter is a time for slowing down, internal renewal, rest, and reflection. As a congregation, we’ve been engaged in re-covenanting with each other, examining what our agreements are when we are together, and participating in the process of building our covenant in this community. I love covenant, particularly because they make space for us to challenge one another, to have difficult conversations, to make mistakes and return again in love.
I recently re-read a book that has helped me engage in difficult conversations, with love and space for mistakes. Honest, Direct, and Respectful by Dennis D Adams was brought to my attention during a professional conference a year ago in a workshop led by another DRE from Seattle, Aisha Hauser, who is now serving on the board of the Liberal Religious Educators Association. Aisha brought the book to conference in response to a difficult conversation within our association about communication styles. The book is a quick read, and one that has helped me in the personal and professional areas of my life. In the spirit of our recovenanting, I offer this resource to each of you with the hopes that it might inform our work together and in our worlds beyond these walls.
Dennis Adams invites each of us to examine our own communication style, with the hope that we might get to a place where we can say what we mean and live at peace. Many of us use at least one, and possibly two out of the three book title terms when we communicate, but there is an art to doing all three at the same time. Being Honest, Direct, and Respectful allows a person to come into a conversation from a place of strength, speaking truthfully, and not attempting to control the outcome of the conversation. Letting go of outcomes can be a hard practice for many of us, especially in the culture that we live in every day. The book guides you towards being able to communicate in a way that brings you internal resolution, without manipulating the other folks at the table. The book provides a simple but effective formula for putting together your thoughts, and gives you a concrete place to start from as you implement your own honest, direct, and respectful communication.
I’ve recently started working on this with my own kids, and though we are far from grasping it, we are working toward it in a process that is probably more valuable than the outcome itself. I’ve purchased an extra copy of the book to loan to friends. I re-read the book when I need it, reread my notes when I have a moment, and re-implement the strategies. Honest, Direct, and Respectful communication is a beautiful tool for untying the relational knots that exist in our day to day lives, and it supports the inherent worth and dignity of everyone in the conversation, which is a much needed element in the world today. This book supports the creation of healthy boundaries, covenantal behavior, and returning to community values when there is conflict or difficulty. May you send and receive messages with honesty, simplicity, and respect for the benefit of everyone, including yourself.