The Fear Of Being Direct


If you scared of being direct, you're not alone. TV characters and many others struggle, too.

Writer Aaron Sorkin and HBO have given us "The Newsroom," a terrific new show with plenty of material to write about, in this case, the fear of being direct. In the first season of "The Newsroom," anchor Will McAvoy and executive producer MacKenzie McHale work their way from a very contentious professional relationship, due to their past romantic involvement, to a highly successful professional relationship in making a well-respected, hard-hitting newscast. However, they have not dealt with their anger and disappointment about how their relationship ended and their very obvious feelings for each other in the present.

Each wishes the other would just say something, and neither is willing to risk being vulnerable. Rather than wishing that Will would admit his feelings, MacKenzie could be direct and tell him how she feels. Each is expecting the other to read minds, which is a childish way of functioning and a poor strategy for making a satisfying adult life. This gives us an interesting television show, due to their unspoken feelings that are always just under the surface, but it’s not a great way to live one’s life.

Their fear of being direct is mirrored in the professional and would-be personal relationship between two more junior members of the news staff, Jim and Maggie. They like each other, respect each other professionally and personally, but will not take the risk of being direct. We want to shake them and say, "Come on.  Just say what you feel." Easy to see it in these two would-be couples, but harder to see in ourselves, whether in a would-be or actual relationship or in negotiating salaries, making vacation arrangements, or in much more mundane circumstances!

If you have a fear of being direct in your personal or professional life, you're missing out on a very satisfying part of an adult life. Presentation coach Diane DiResta says that anyone who doesn’t get past their fear of public speaking, so they can give presentations and lead workshops to promote their business, is leaving money on the table. I would borrow her concept and say that anyone who hasn’t learned to be direct with others is leaving satisfaction on the table. A good therapist can help you understand where your fear of being direct comes from and learn to begin to handle yourself in a more adult manner. Learning to be direct through therapy sure beats wishing and mind-reading!


This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.