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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Straight-Talk – From Stress and Struggle to Success

To my relief, candor, transparency, and straight talk increasingly show up in articles and discussions. It is much needed. As much as many workplace and other conversations benefit from subtlety and nuance, at least as many conversations are in great need of honest, sincere expression, of forthrightness, and of frankness in responding.

My business is called HardTalk and clients call me the Candor Coach. At the same time many think I’m on a crazy endeavor. Introducing more candor in communication and in leadership, regardless of the culture and the setting, is generally looked at as opening a can of worms. 

The reason? We are fueled by our fears! You are fueled by your fears and by your tendency to avoid risks. Think of your need for approval (your fear for disapproval), your need for praise (your fear for criticism and disapproval), or your need to be liked (your fear for rejection). For too many people, the desire – or obsession? – to prevent conflict is especially strong. Conflict is often perceived as bad and unpredictable.

To make things a little worse, in addition to being guided by your fears you are misguided by erroneous beliefs, and the two are obviously related. If you believe:
- That tensions and negative feelings should be avoided in conversations
- That showing respect is synonymous with withholding what might be painful, and
- That your need to be liked and accepted justifies indirectness and half truths… YOU ARE WRONG

You do everyone, including yourself, a great disservice by sugar-coating the message, by beating around the bush and by delaying or withholding your opinion. Your customers, your employees, your loved ones – every one loses. They might like the conversation or you better in that very moment, but how about trust, helping each other grow, and showing respect through honesty and straight talk?

Candor with yourself and others decreases blind spots and self-deception, improves communication and collaboration, and it increases trust and accountability. As simple as that. And remember, in a trusting and transparent relationship people can handle confrontations and the, sometimes brutal truth, even if they don’t like it.

Now what? How to start? First, start thinking past the roadblocks and
-       Amend your beliefs on kindness, assertiveness, candor, and conflict.
-       Know and learn to handle your needs and fears.
-       Practice having candid conversations. And practice. And practice.

My next post will cover a step-by-step framework on the ‘how-to’ of candid conversations. 

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