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Clear is Kind: Why You Should Endure The Discomfort of Being Direct

There is no such thing as a friendly reminder.

“Friendly reminders” are passive-aggressive roundabout ways of avoiding direct communication and clarifying your position.

There are fascinating reasons why we do this, which Dr. Harriett Lerner, Patron Saint Of All Things Anger, talks about in detail .

The gist is that many of us avoid conflict because we fear separation. Passive aggression allows us to “keep” a relationship by avoiding potential conflict.

Ironically, this move makes you less close and more separate, but you maintain the illusion of closeness. Healthy conflict (rupture and repair) is what brings closeness.


Passive aggression may feel cathartic at the moment, but it is an ineffective strategy for inspiring action. And often it evokes the opposite intended effect. 

Passive aggression registers in our brain as mean, even if on the surface it sounds like “just a friendly reminder!” We hear . What is not said, but implied. And this provokes a fight or flight response – ineffective for

Which is precisely what happened . The author didn’t communicate what she thought she was communicating with her “friendly reminder.”

(The other author (me) is likewise snarky and a bit juvenile. I lacked the requisite self-awareness, distance, and objectivity to make this piece more effective. My own passive-aggression got in the way. It is embarrassing now, but sharing the work-in-progress was how I learned and got better. I couldn’t spot the snark and sloppy writing until I’d gotten it out and into the world. Something Kristin Hatcher and I are helping people do .)

Passive aggression might preserve the illusion of “being nice,” but

It is mean, even if we “don’t mean to be.”

Clear is kind. 

Be deliberate with your words, don’t obfuscate, don’t assume, and don’t imply. 

Endure the discomfort of being direct.

Respect people enough to tell them the truth. And do it kindly.