So I have this problem. It is something that has haunted me for quite awhile, and I am not sure that there is a cure for it. Some days, it is almost too much to bear, and causes me to go home weary and ready to simply sleep and hope the next day is better. It affects me both personally, and professionally. I have seen relationships end because of it, and business deals fail through its effects. What is this affliction? It is the inability to not say the blunt, honest truth with no regard to “the spin”. It may be terminal.
I make light of this, but I truly believe it is a double edged sword. The positives can be explained as follows. We had a situation this week in the firm where a serious conversation needed to happen with a candidate; call it a lesson in professionalism. We needed to say something very simple, but the thought was too awkward for one of us. Rather than simply saying a simple (yet awkward) comment, one of us tried to skirt the issue with vague stories and direction. The issue arose when the candidate took that vague direction as gospel, followed it, and almost lost the opportunity based on that action. This was completely avoidable if said in a direct manner.
There are countless other times in business where I see people “walk around” a conversation, rather than facing it head on. The confusing part for me is whether people are simply scared to have those tough talks; or whether we have let the “PC Police” influence us so much that our sentiments are lost in our attempts to never offend others. The reality of life is this-you will make people mad. It will happen. It is unavoidable. There is no escape. The desire to dance around for fear of hurting someone is not noble-it is cowardice. True innovators know that people will not always agree with them. True friends will tell you when you are being a moron.
I have always believed it is more difficult to be honest. You put yourself in situations knowing full well you are about to hurt/upset/anger someone. This is a large burden to carry, and can wear you down. There are those that evangelize being honest while being tactful. I firmly believe they are mutually exclusive. I am not a proponent of purposely upsetting anyone, but if the thought resides of overly concerning yourself with sidebars and how this might affect other things….then you stop being honest by default. At the end of the day, if someone does not respect the honesty, then they are not worth your time.
The negatives here are also obvious. There are times people do not want the truth. They do not want to hear they are not qualified for a position; that they made a bad choice; that they did not get the position. Those are hard conversations. That is also what separates adults from children. Adults are forced to have those talks-unpleasant as they may be. That is the world of grown-ups, and sometimes I think that is lost in the shuffle of “everyone gets a trophy” for playing. As a father, I wonder if we are setting our children up for failure in this regard. In life, you do not get a reward for showing up- you get it for winning. If we praise for trying over results, do we not set a finite limit on our future? If it does not take something extra or a win for reward-what is the use of trying?
I digress…..Suffice it to say that I truly believe that one awkward conversation beats multiple dances to get the same point across. I see it at work daily; and I see the dance blow up on people. The sheer volume of work that would be reduced by quicker, honest conversations is astounding. Think of that when you are faced with that choice.
So back to my “disease”…….I leave you with this thought-consider it a “polite” warning, don’t ask me how you look in those jeans unless you want an honest answer?