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The Subtle Art of Being Candid

There are times when you really just want to speak your mind. When you are frustrated or flabbergasted or surprised (not the good kind). And a little voice inside advises otherwise. I am an advocate of honesty, but usually this little voice causes us to hesitate and is suggesting that there is another way to say what we mean.

What you say and how you say it has a massive influence on how it is received by the person who is hearing it.

It can mean the difference between a successful conversation, and one that ends with irreparable damage. That’s when the room gets a little more crowded because new Elephants enter named “resentment” or “embarrassment,” “defeated” or “insulted.” None of these help develop an employee into a member of a high-performing team. Instead they can cause a team member to underperform as a response to avoiding situations where they might experience failure or make mistakes. They might also refrain from telling whole truths, or skew and falsify information in their favor.

Let’s talk about the subtle art of not saying exactly what’s on your mind.

It’s the difference between being candid and being blunt. Candid is honesty with respect. Blunt is saying what’s on your mind without regard for how the other person will receive it.

Has anyone ever told you, “you need to calm down”?

How’d that go, eh?

Probably not well.







Bring forward your memory of that conversation. What if the other person had said something more like “you seem frustrated,” or “let’s take a break and come back in 5 min.” Can you see that conversation being more productive? The suggestion is the same – you are revving up and you need to calm down. But you are much more receptive to the former than hearing “calm down” outright.

Here are a few other examples:

  • When you want to say “what were you thinking?!” — You can say “I don’t understand why that happened,” or “I am confused why you made that decision.”
  • When you want to say “that’s not a good idea” or “that’s a bad idea” — You can say “Let’s save that idea for now, and come back to it when…”
  • When you want to say “are you serious?!” or “are you kidding me?!” — You can say “I am concerned about …” or “Help me understand why that happened.”

It’s subtle, and the point remains the same between them.

The subtle art of not saying exactly what’s on your mind takes conscious practice, and a little bit of self control in heated situations. Bing candid rather than blunt will make a huge difference in the success of your confrontational conversations.

Question: Do you know any new leaders who are a little too blunt, and would benefit from learning the subtle art of being candid?


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