Ambiguity is a silent relationship-killer

Ask me anything, if you do not understand me. I’ll try my best to be clear and honest with you.

Why is it so hard for you to return the favor so that I can get clarity about what’s going on between us?

Do not give me hints. Do not force me to decode the meaning behind each hint so that I can take a stab at piecing the hints together, so then, I can take my first pass at guessing the full meaning of what you actually want me to know.

Or, go ahead, force me to fill in the blanks and watch me guess wrong about your intentions every single time. Then, when you get frustrated for not feeling understood and I get frustrated for all the worry I put into whether or not I correctly deduced your true feelings, watch our relationship dissolve.

Why do people choose ambiguity over clarity, even though it is aggravating and people say they hate it? Because the only way to combat ambiguity is to ask and answer questions.

But most people would prefer a good shocking with a car battery attached to their toes (thank you visual image that won’t leave my mind since seeing Slumdog Millionaire yesterday) than to ask or address questions.

I have annoyed plenty of people in my life by asking lots of questions. None of my relationships were immune and I paid a shocking price for them, from parental scoldings, to employer skepticism to boyfriend reprimands. I ask questions to show interest and get a clearer understanding of the situation. It hurt when my questions were treated as an imposition rather than as keen interest in the person or topic.

It took me decades to figure out why most people detest questions.

A question is a surprise that does not give us time to shield our insecurities and fears. If you ask a question, you might seem dense because you don’t immediately know the answer. If you are asked a question, it might force you to reveal more about yourself than you were willing to reveal and that makes you feel vulnerable and angry. Either way, negative emotions emerge around the act of questioning.

You have to feel pretty damn secure in your intelligence to ask the CEO, who is known to prefer the “fog of war,” to clarify what he means when he orders layoffs and a restructure of the department, but then offers no further direction. You first weigh the pain of receiving his judgments against your dire need for more information so that you can perform your job.

If you ask, you risk hearing his newfound negative opinions of you:

1] You must be stupid to not understand his direction
2] You must not be competent to perform the task
3] How dare you question his authority? Maybe you are not his ally and he was wrong to promote you?

What’s my point?

I am certain that we would live happier and healthier lives if we were not forced to frequently play these guessing games with the people who impact our lives — our colleagues, friends, and lovers.

Sure, asking for clarity can feel like a difficult conversation to have. But, so what?

Ambiguity is a cop-out. People talk a lot but carefully omit their honest remarks about the way they feel or what they want from you. Then, they throw the ball into your court and force you to do the hard work decrypting their code. It conveniently becomes your fault if you guess wrong.

When I look back on my relationships that felt the most frustrating, they all failed because I lost the stamina to clear up the ambiguity between us. I am not afraid to hear the truth. If you try to communicate clearly with me, you will own a piece of my heart and my eternal respect.

If you hide your feelings about me or the status of our relationship, you give me nothing real to grasp. It makes our relationship feel vague and uncertain and not worth our precious time that could otherwise be filled with the serenity and happiness that comes with a relationship full of honesty and clarity.

I am not asking for a marriage proposal. All I ask for is clarity — from all of my relationships, personal and professional. Shouldn’t you?

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