Anyone who has spoken with Carol or me will vouch for the fact that we are direct and call it like we see it.
Clear and direct communication is generally a good thing. It’s certainly what we should aim for in our writing.
However, with verbal communication, especially when communicating something awkward or difficult, there are some considerations you should take into account. And some best practices you should follow.
When someone says, “Can I be brutally honest?” it can make you cringe. You feel like you should give the person permission to charge ahead, but you also know that you should put up some armor because whatever they’re going to say is probably going to sting.
In my opinion, experiencing someone’s brutal honesty is often just brutal. The feedback or guidance provided might be helpful – but it frequently isn’t. The brutally honest person may have their own agenda.
They may be saying something to make themselves feel better or superior.
They may be trying to discharge some pain or frustration and you are the unlucky recipient.
They may be trying to thwart your progress so they don’t have to look critically at their lack of progress.
Yep. This happens a lot.
However, we all experience situations where we need to give guidance or provide perspective so someone can course correct. As a coach and consultant, I often have to share hard truths with clients. In fact, that’s what they are paying me to do!
So, how can you get your point across and not have the other person shut down? Here are some suggestions:
Beware your inner troll
We all have an inner mean girl or guy. It’s easy to be cruel behind your laptop or on the phone. We say or type things we would never say to someone’s face.
I recommend instituting a filter. If you wouldn’t say it to their face that way, you probably should rephrase it.
Look for competitive energy
Knocking someone else down to make yourself look good can make you feel better for an instant, but then you’ll beat yourself up for having done it.
We all get competitive at times, and it is tempting to try to knock someone off a pedestal. Instead, step back and critically look at what is triggering you. Jealousy can be an indicator of where you secretly want to be and what you want to be doing.
Are you irritated that your colleague got a plum speaking gig? Maybe you should be pursuing your own gigs.
Do you find yourself thinking, “I could have done that!” This thought could be an indicator of where you want to take your business, or of some type of content you should create.
Check yourself (before you wreck yourself)
We’ve all said that terrible thing that’s hard to take back. You can almost see those words hanging in the air and you wish you hadn’t released them.
If you feel triggered or affected by the heat of the moment, it can be a good idea to have a three-second rule. Before blurting out the terrible thing you’re thinking, take a breath and count to three.
You know how radio stations run on a delay so they can hit a button to bleep out curse words? We would all benefit from instituting something like that.
Wield Your Sword of Truth
If you have feedback that is important, take the emotional charge out of it so the other person doesn’t immediately get defensive.
Boil the message down to objective facts. Use specific instances to illustrate what you’re talking about. The person may be completely unaware of what they’re doing or saying.
Also, add in points such as, “My experience has been…” Your experience is your experience. Nobody can really push back on it.
Offer them a sandwich
Be compassionate and sandwich really difficult content with some affirmations on either side. Say, “I know you have been struggling with xxx. You’ve made a lot of progress, but one thing you might want to consider is xxxx. If you do that, I think you could be really successful.
As you can see, there are some easy techniques you can use to get your point across, without making the other person want to shoot the messenger.