On Being Blunt and Loving

The most absurd reason we offer for not being candid, blunt, or “honest” is because we want to spare the other person’s feelings.

No, we shy away from candor because we are afraid for ourselves. We say “If I tell him the truth in a candid way, he will react badly — and that will harm me or harm my relationship with him.”

When we can get over our own fear for ourselves — when we create a bond of high trust with another person — we can be extremely blunt and candid. As long as we do it with the clear shared intention of helping that other person out, we’ll be heard and appreciated, and the need to be “politic” or “diplomatic” vanishes. Communication flows faster, easier and is more accurate and helpful.

Here’s an email I got back from a client after I confronted her very bluntly over her own sub-par performance that I had witnessed. In her case, she made commitments and didn’t keep them.

I just wanted to thank you again for your feedback yesterday. I […] truly appreciated your honesty with me personally. Your constructive criticism was a good reminder to me of an area I struggle in and I was impressed by how I walked away from our conversation feeling like I had an awareness of new ways to improve my commitment making and breaking skills instead of simply feeling like a failure. I felt inspired to improve, so thank you.

I have a very high level of trust with my clients, and it allows me to hit them hard where they most want and need it. And you can do the exact same thing with your colleagues, your boss and your subordinates.

Get over your fear. Stop short-changing your team mates. Stop allowing your own ego-fears from preventing you telling the other person – lovingly – what they want and need to hear.

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