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Direct or Indirect

We’ve all had conversations where you’re waiting for someone to get to the point, or you yourself are “beating around the bush”. Once, a client rambled on for 40 minutes, all over the map, jumping from one topic to another and the only thread he held to, was his frustration of being misunderstood. On several occasions I interrupted him with what I thought were good questions, to help him stay on point, to deliver his message, but down the fast track he flew with a full head of steam backed by a tailwind of  lack of self-awareness.

The client was in full story, reporting with journalistic freedom his impressions of what, how, and why something happened. In English grammar, direct and indirect speech have distinct definitions. Simply put (this is not a grammar lesson) direct speech takes the form of the present tense, often begins with “I”, and delivers a statement of exact actions or quotes performed by yourself or someone else; e.g.  My wife says I take a long time to make a point. Indirect speech switches to the past tense, or reported speech, based upon meaning. Meanings can be very subjective and open to interpretation e.g.  He took so long to make his point that his wife looked flabbergasted.

So in the torrent of my clients indirect monologue I finally pulled the brake lever and asked him; “What is your personal message you’d like to convey?” He responded with a blank stare and silence. Silence is a good thing, sometimes uncomfortable, but a resting place to collect oneself, ponder, and start over.

After the pause, he began in the present tense with “You know, I feel really misunderstood.” He stayed present and spoke about what is happening not about his interpretations of what happened. He was able to speak to and see his role in the story and deliver his important message directly without falling prey to selective reality.

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