Clear is Kind

By Lauren Quinn, Co-Founder & Head of School

Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.

I first heard this simple yet profound statement through reading Brene Brown’s work. Through her research, she found the single most detrimental factor to an organization’s culture is when group members are unclear with each other- characterized by avoiding tough conversations and giving honest feedback.

This year, our Heroes are exploring various ways they can use their voice. It is my greatest hope that they can use them clearly and kindly.

Of course, in a learner-driven community, opportunities to be clear about our feelings, our needs, and our desires abound. Every day conflicts can be resolved by using the “I” message: “I felt _______ when you _______. Can you please _______.” Ongoing issues or conflicts can be addressed through a conflict resolution process, town hall meeting, or by seeking council from a squad member. Full circle feedback allows learners a chance to give honest warm/cool feedback on their studio-mates.

These systems are part of our learning design because we believe deeply that clear is kind- always. This is the path of a hero.

The other “unclear” path when facing conflict is typically one of avoidance, passive-aggressiveness, manipulation, or despair. This is the path of a victim- or a villain.

Most of us have a “go-to” default method of dealing with conflict.

Mine is avoidance. If I ignore it, it will just go away. Over the years, I’ve put a strong effort into “overriding” this default method by trying to live by this belief that “clear is kind.” It’s a critical part of my own Hero’s Journey.

Recently, we had family in the area for a week, some of whom had traveled from Europe and I had not seen in several years. I was thrilled to spend time with them. We got together for dinner one of the first nights they were here and then- we didn’t hear from them the rest of the week. In viewing pictures of their adventures in and around D.C. on social media, I felt a small twinge. I made excuses- “They probably thought we were too busy” or “It’s not a big deal.” But, ultimately, I was hurt. When I received a message from them after their visit, I avoided replying. This is what has always come easiest to me. Avoidance is my default method of dealing with hurt or disappointment.

But then, I decided just to be clear. I sent them a message, my very own “I message” (they work for adults too) which opened the doors to a tough but necessary conversation. It feels good to choose this path.

Like exercising, it’s hard at first and takes time to build this muscle. But with practice, it gets easier over time. Before long, we’ve got a new default method, a new habit- one of welcoming tough conversations and giving honest, productive feedback to the various humans in our lives.

I hope this is the path I remember to take again and again. I still have a lot to unlearn.

But for our young heroes, they have the opportunity of building this muscle from the start. It is my hope they choose this path- so often that over time and after many “reps”, speaking clearly and kindly is just muscle memory.

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