Often, particularly when we have some tough things to say to someone (even if it is for their own good), we often skirt around the subject, not really saying what we know needs to be said. Usually this kind of talk is an attempt to be nice so that the person doesn’t think badly of us – in other words we find ourselves not being straight so that we don’t risk being disliked or rejected.
The challenge is that this person would have benefited from hearing what we have to say, and by not saying it straight we reduce significantly how much we support and empower them. In other words, straight talk is similar to tough love – feedback born from really caring about someone, given to them in a way that isn’t judgemental or mean but doesn’t mince words either. Straight talk does not need to be harsh, dark or negative. It can be said with power, with compassion and with a lightness and deftness of touch.
Tip: When giving people any form of feedback that they might find challenging, difficult to hear or even upsetting – whether they are our children, employees or best friends – there are three techniques that are proven to help:
1. Ask their permission first before we tell them, so that they are choosing to hear it now. It may not be a great time for them, they may feel weak or vulnerable, they may be about to walk into a meeting or dinner party and need to stay clear-headed. Either way a simple question like “can I give you some straight feedback now?” can help defuse any issues. It is vital of course to respect and act on their response – no matter how much we want to tell them something
2. Say some positive stuff first, no matter what it is (and there is always something) – the things we admire, enjoy or feel is useful. That way they know it’s not all bad and therefore they are less likely to get defensive or irritated
3. Start our feedback by letting them know that we know that it is just our opinion or intuition, not necessarily the truth. Something like “I have noticed, and it may be just my perspective…”, or “in my experience…”. This stops the feedback becoming a judgement, and often allows the person to be more open to looking at it and contemplating it fully
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