How to Avoid Unintended Consequences from Incomplete Communications

Lack of Confidence Sabotages SuccessI was watching the recent on-air interview reconciliation between Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant (a former protégé of Oprah’s who vanished from the TV scene eleven years ago) and have to say I was shocked. Shocked but not surprised that even two powerful, successful women who are each spiritual leaders in their own right fell prey to the unintended consequences that come when communications are incomplete and assumptions are made. When the lack of full confidence in who you are sets you up for disaster.

  • Have you ever had an important conversation with someone and then seen it blow up in your face?
  • Spoken your truth in a way that was not received by the other person the way it was intended?
  • Wondered why something so good suddenly went bad or vanished without a trace leaving you scratching your head and saying, “what happened?”

It’s painful. I know because I have experienced this numerous times in my life. I’ve lost important relationships that caused me great pain and loneliness even though in hindsight I knew they were meant to fade away. I’ve had my chutzpah handed to me on a platter when I’ve enthusiastically spoken up in professional settings in a way that could not be received. I’ve had to heal relationships when what was intended and said was not how it was received.

It hurts; it can sabotage your success, and can cost you time and energy healing relationships that you never had any intention of damaging in the first place.

So what can you do differently? That’s where the lessons illustrated beautifully by this television interview come in.

During this no-holds barred exchange both women showed us what it means to be powerful in your own vulnerability. It was oh-so-clear how misunderstandings can occur and on a grand scale and how both pain and purpose result. Here’s what stood out for me as important lessons:

Confidence is an Inside-Out Job
One of the most touching moments in this interview was when Iyanla said that she thought the world only wanted the work and not her(as a person). Even with all the poise, confidence, and verve that were her signature teaching style on the inside she was still feeling “not enough”, that someone would want her just for being her and not what she could do for the other person. Make no mistake that this pain was at the heart of the misunderstood communications and lost opportunities that followed. When you feel not worthy or “less than” you cannot command your power.

Incomplete Communications and Assumptions Create Train Wrecks
When only part of the story is told or able to be received communication is incomplete. When assumptions are made the very premise of understanding is skewed. It’s like viewing something through a fun-house mirror of glass. You can never assume what someone else’s experience is like. You can empathize and seek to understand, but you truly can never know what it is like for someone else. This is where powerful questions and inquiry make all the difference in getting to clear, mutual understanding.

Both Pain and Purpose Flow from Difficult Circumstances
Inevitably pain flows from painful circumstances. It’s obvious. What often takes time to see clearly is the purpose and meaning that flows from them as well. There is always a reason we are experiencing what we are, even if it not clear to us. Usually it can be clear in hindsight and sometimes the clarity never comes. Yet it is up to you to make your mess into an opportunity to grow and be more purposeful.

Reach Out for Reconciliation
If you feel called, reach out. Be willing to be vulnerable and reconcile by cleaning up incomplete communications. Even if the other party is not willing or able to reconcile with you, you can do what you need to do in order to release and forgive (especially forgiving yourself). Without forgiveness you forever drag a lead anchor around with you that keep you stuck in the past in a negative way. You cannot move forward effectively with one foot stuck in the past.

Our Humanness Levels the Playing Field
While the show focused on this very high-profile situation, at the end of the day it is the beauty in our brokenness and our humanness that unites rather than divides us. No amount of money or success could protect these women from the emotional impact of what happened. So, while this misunderstanding profiles the high stakes of the television industry, a media mogul, and spiritual teacher the same type of situations play out every day in workplaces, business relationships, and households across the globe. In your life and in mine. It is what we do with them that makes all the difference.

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  1. Bravo Paula!

    Thank you for sharing this so beautifully with your community. How willing we are to be vulnerable and share ourselves with others with complete, clear and clean communication can make the difference between a life of regret or a life of freedom and delight.

    There is POWER in vulnerability and at the same time,yes, it's a risk. No one talks about it, but what has us hesitate to speak our truth, to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen, is this thing called shame. Shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection. Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won't be worthy of connection?

    What I've discovered in my research is this emotion is universal and it's stopping millions from living full out. If your community is interested, I'll be talking more on this subject in an upcoming tele-call:

    Love freely,


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