Typically we hear this sentence at the beginning of a rant. The speaker (or writer) starts out with this sentence as a sort of warning, as if to say...
You have got it all wrong and I am about to enlighten you. So you had better listen up!
Oddly enough, these days I actually like this statement!
A few years ago I stepped off of the holier than thou rant circuit, and I thought I was done with this rather condescending opener for good.
Yet here it is again.
The context has shifted and the words no longer have any bite to them, since I have parted company with those who felt the need to tell me how wrong I was on a regular basis and have ceased to inflict that on others. (At least I hope I have. My kids will let me know if I am lying to myself here!)
The words have been bouncing around in my head in a new way. They have become a goal for me, and an intention.
My journey as a writer and a speaker has been a struggle and a quest for the very sentence I used to associate with judgment and hostility.
Let me make myself perfectly clear– not perfectly right, or perfectly judgmental…
Clear so that my writing and speech are useful to others...
Clear so that I may be of service...
Clear so that I can take the energy that was once siphoned off by misunderstandings, assumptions, and conflict and put it to good use.
So today I say it with a smile on my face and not a trace of hostility in my voice.
"Let me make myself perfectly clear." That's a worthy goal in my book, one I will likely pursue for the remainder of my life.
(Cue harp music & wave to the bluebird of happiness as he flies past.)
"That's a nice, big, fluffy goal to have," you say!
How will you know when you get there?
What does that look like?
Are there metrics?
Like most goals, we can begin with feel-good language, but if we don't zoom in to consider tactics they amount to nothing more than what a friend of mine calls "unicorns and fairy dust." So I am thinking of some metrics and visible signs that tell me if I am on the right path or not.
Some are obvious and measurable, like the analytics that tell me how many people are reading the content on this web site, likes on social media and YouTube, the number of comments and questions I get, the audience response when I give a talk… even the occasional survey I like to do for feedback.
There are qualitative measures too, some very blatant and others subtle. There are my students' comments in instructor evaluations, rich conversations with friends and loved ones, the warmth of the reception I get at conferences, etc.
More subtle, more plentiful, and more telling are the nonverbal cues in face to face engagements.
Are my students smiling, looking confused, or in need of a break?
Is this person I just met leaning forward or are his feet pointed toward the door?
Does my son engage in the discussion with animation or head to his room in search of a video game to play?
Does the person I was hoping to work with call me back or avoid me?
My operational definition of clarity?
For me it is an uncomplicated presentation of ideas such that there is two-way (or more) engagement that leads to growth and/or discovery.
So when you hear me say the words, "Let me make myself perfectly clear," please don't run for the hills!
It's not the warning sign of an impending rant. It's my intention and a reflection of my commitment to do the work— to be thoughtful, to mature the ideas I champion, and to constantly work on my abilities as a communicator.
So how about you?
How do YOU know when you are spot on in terms of clarity?
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