Lack of integrity in communication can result in heartbreak and vast amounts of wasted energy in families, organizations, schools, businesses, and communities. Too many important relationships are damaged and destroyed simply because the parties involved complained to others instead of bringing themselves to speak directly to each other or to someone who had the power to help them. This is why it is important to make the time to think about how we are communicating as well as what we are wanting to accomplish.

Maintaining integrity in communication is an easy commitment to make theoretically, but hard to sustain in real life. Many aspects of the larger social culture we live in do not foster honesty, direct respectful communication, getting help to solve problems, being tolerant of differences, or being proactive in addressing concerns.

Our larger social culture often teaches people to blame rather than to seek win-win solutions and tends to define feedback as an attack rather than as a gift. Our larger social culture often encourages negative judgments about intentions rather than using objective observations of behavior that, when clear boundaries or expectations are defined, can usually be changed.

The integrity in communication tools Kidpower teaches include direct communication about behavior that crosses our boundaries, specific respectful feedback, persistence in dealing with any negative reactions rather than being stopped by them, speaking up about our needs, giving people the benefit of the doubt about their intentions, staying mindful about what is actually happening, and getting help when we need it.

Using these tools takes skill and courage because it can be hard to give feedback in the moment, especially to people who are in positions of authority, respect, and power – or to people who seem to be vulnerable and potentially easy to hurt.

The following article identifies excuses we often give ourselves for talking behind other people’s backs instead of speaking up to them directly – and how to overcome common obstacles to integrity in communication.

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Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; and The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People.

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