Can I tell you a secret? I am so sick of hearing statements like, “You need to have a difficult conversation,” and, “You need to give them feedback.”
Can we just start treating human beings like human beings? Can we have the courage to be clear with people and respectful? And can those people have the courage to ask questions if they feel something is not clear?
I get that some of us are people pleasers to the max. This is especially true of women. But if we keep people pleasing, the one who will be sooo not pleased is you!
Let’s stop with the nice on the outside, fuming on the inside. Let’s tell it how it really is. You don’t need to be rude to do that; you just need to be clear!
Be clear to be kind
In her book, Dare to Lead, Brené Brown has this brilliant phrase: “Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind.”
Let’s think about that for a minute. When we are clear and respectful, when we ask for what we need and check for understanding to ensure we have been heard, we are being kind.
When we are passive in our comments, when we are vague and not transparent about the real situation, we make others feel confused, as though something has been left unsaid. It means our relationships are not as strong as they could be, trust is eroded, and people will not do their best work because they feel confused and disengaged.
So, how do we get better at this?
I actually don’t think being clear it is just about being honest. However, that’s a good place to start.
Here’s what I do to ensure clear, respectful communication:
4. Follow up
Take some time to think about the situation and what the issues are (or aren’t). Be super specific about what needs to be said (and what doesn’t) and think through the lens of the other person.
Writing what you want to say and then saying it aloud in front of the mirror is a great way to get your words right. Why? Well, there are a few reasons. We can take all the time we want to script what we want to say and think it sounds great, but then when we say it to the other person, it can come out all wrong. Secondly, the tongue has memory. The tongue remembers what it has said, so practising makes it easier to say what needs to be said when the time comes. And finally, when you practise aloud, you will notice your tongue “trips” on certain words. Practising allows you to change your words or put them in a different order.
Your delivery counts. Choose a time of day that works for you and the other person. If you are both in a rush to get stuff done, it probably won’t work as well as it would if you were both relaxed, or if you knew the conversation was going to happen. For instance, if it’s a conversation you need to have with your partner, doing so in the middle of putting the children to bed is probably not the best time. If it’s a conversation you need to have with your employee, having it in the middle of a deadline they’re working on probably isn’t the best time. And if it’s a conversation with a supplier and you’re in the middle of sorting out other issues, that’s also probably not the right time.
Sometimes, the other person needs time to think about the conversation, ruminate on it, and come back to you. Make sure you follow up to ensure their understanding. Then, if you need to have another conversation with them, you can.
I know that clear conversations can be a bit scary. But I also know how my clients feel when they respect their own feelings (and that of the other person) and have those conversations that leave their relationships intact. In fact, not just intact, but stronger for having had those conversations.
You will, at some point, bugger the conversation up. That’s why practise is so important. If you bugger it up, apologise and get better!
Does this resonate with you? Are clear, upfront and respectful conversations something you need to work on? Is unclear communication holding you back from taking your career to the next level? If so, get in touch and let’s see what we can do to help.
I’m Emma, and I’m a business and executive coach who believes wholeheartedly in the potential of women. My coaching philosophy is simple- taking action leads to results- and I love working with women in business and in corporate roles to take their passion and drive and transform their professional and personal lives.
Be enthusiastic, optimistic and energetic, every day.