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Clear is Kind

Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.
Feeding people half-truths or bullshit to make them feel better (which is almost always about making ourselves feel more comfortable) is unkind.
Not getting clear with a colleague about your expectations because it feels too hard, yet holding them accountable or blaming them for not delivering is unkind.
Talking about people rather than to them is unkind.

Brené Brown, brenebrown.com

I sometimes feel like there is an ear to the universe; one that listens to the songs of our souls and allows the universe to responds with a balm that we need in that moment. Every Thursday I receive an email newsletter with positive parenting tips and discussions about how to better interact with your children and your family. This morning’s email started out highlighting the above quotation from Brené Brown. The quotation fit in well the the theme of the newsletter, which is about being clear with our children about what we expect from them, and how that equates to being kind in our communication. However, the sentiment resonated with me on a different level; in a stronger way, regarding an upsetting interaction I had just yesterday with a person who has been the source of great strife for the past 6 months.

The issue is not new, and ironically, the initial situation that led to so much grief resulted from unclear communication, unclear expectations, and the inability to be open and honest. Yesterday, I asked the program director of my residency to fill out a reference form necessary to obtain my medical license. Given the events of the past 6 months that started with the unclear denial of my waiver of training, and the emotional fallout of that, asking her for this reference was clearly not my first choice. However, my options were limited as the licensing body requires a reference from the program director for all new graduates. I assumed that she would know this, given that she has likely filled out many of these forms since becoming the program director. Therefore, I made a few assumptions that perhaps I shouldn’t have made. First, I assumed that she would have known I had no choice but to ask her for this reference request and that by me asking politely for it, she would understand how difficult it would be to ask for it. Second, I assumed that there would be a level of professionalism (which is always expected in the field of medicine) on her part and that she would be able (and willing) to put her personal opinions of me aside and objectively report on my skills as a medical doctor. Not surprisingly, though, she indicated that she would likely not be the best person to fill out the reference.

I’m not sure why I am so upset by her response. Perhaps it was because she first indicated a hesitancy to fill it out, but then she said that if I couldn’t find someone else, she would do it. To me this says, “I will do it because I know I have to, but I want to tell you that I’m not happy about doing it.” It would equate to me making the request by saying, “I know that we haven’t seen eye to eye on recent issues, but I am hoping you can put those differences aside and fill out this reference for for me?” Maybe this is just splitting hairs, but maybe it’s actually the crux of what Brené Brown is getting at in her quotation. Further to that, it feels like what this quotation speaks to is the issue underlying the whole problem from the very beginning: There were no clear guidelines for how a waiver of training is decided upon, and there was no clear explanation ever given to me about why it was denied. Since that initial incident, there has been no clarity for me. And, as Brené Brown points out, that is unkind.

I know I am most upset about the unkindness. Everyone, including myself deserves kindness. When kindness is not received, or worse, unkindness is delivered in its stead, we end up hurt and questioning our worth as an individual. Why are the the victim of such unkindness? What makes us worthy of such action (or unworthy of the kindness we should have received)? This question, I realize, underpins why I have struggled so much with this situation over the past 6 months. I just don’t understand why I am deserving of what has been happening. And, it is made worse by the fact that the medical culture makes it impossible for me to speak up about it. All I’ve asked for, from the beginning, is honesty and clarity, and instead, I have only received lies and uncertainty about myself. I don’t have an answer to the problem, except that I have to rise above. The task is challenging, and every time i get close to overcoming the emotions and the feelings of inadequacy, something happens to bring my progress crashing to the ground. Yesterday, this conversation was my breaking point. But today, I received a small reminder that I am deserving of something better.

2 thoughts on “Clear is Kind

  1. You’ve given me something to think about here… I try to be aware of other people’s perspectives, etc, and I’ve always believed people should be told reasons for why they’re being asked to do things (I do a lot of training at work), but I think it’s almost natural for people to make assumptions (not necessarily right, but natural, perhaps to save time).

    And it is a painful thing to feel like one has received unkindness because one did something to deserve it or “brought it upon themselves”. It’s good to own up to your mistakes, but we’re all human and, like you said, we still deserve kindness and compassion (especially from ourselves)

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