Thinking Out Loud

Stating the Obvious

Stating the obvious—one of those phrases I say frequently in the office—is an interpersonal communication basic. As a prevention tool, stating the obvious is very effective. Let me give a quick example to illustrate the point.

In families we constantly take an emotional reading on one another. It’s so intuitive, we usually don’t even think about it unless we start to get an uncomfortable feeling. Dad comes home from an evening meeting and he’s unusually quiet. Why? Did something happen at the meeting? Is he tired? Did I say something that bothered him? These are all typical questions family members of all ages might ask ourselves, in one form or another. Dad is going through something and the rest of us are uncertain and, perhaps, a little anxious.

Now if he states the obvious by telling us what he’s going through the whole energy pattern changes in the family. If Dad says, “Boy I’m really beat. It’s been a long day,” or “I’m so mad that I didn’t speak up at that meeting when…,” we know what we’re dealing with and the anxiety dissipates.

In families, it is human nature to wonder if we’ve done something that has resulted in the darker moods of our loved ones, if they haven’t cued us in to the real issue. So letting them know when we’re bothered is a part of caring for the emotional environment of the family; and it’s always a mistake to expect others to know why you’re having a hard time if you haven’t directly told them.

This is true at work, as well. Sure, you don’t want to air your dirty laundry at work, but there are ways of acknowledging being out of sorts, pensive, or frustrated. Those you work closely with will appreciate having some basic understanding of your emotional demeanor without needing any detail.

At home, though, it’s a different story. Even if you are not ready to talk about whatever is troubling you, it’s still important to give others a general heads up. Again, not knowing what’s going on but knowing something is going on causes worry and anxiety. So, stating the obvious to our loved ones helps them have more peace of mind.

Communication tip: When you’re having a difficult time and don’t know what to say, say “I’m having a difficult time and I don’t know what to say.”

That’s the ultimate in stating the obvious.

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