When I pay a compliment, I mean it. When I ask a question, usually I am really asking vs. being rhetorical or sarcastic. When someone asks my opinion, I try to answer honestly.
My mentors over the years have offered some good advice:
- It helps to be aware that, sometimes, folks don't enter a conversation to be challenged - especially if they are not the initiator. So it's necessary to be respectful of this and bring them more gently into the debate.
- No one likes to hear a flat "that's wrong" - which is a conclusion to be shared after a reasonable discussion is had which is backed by facts.
- Speak plainly, openly and simply - but not bluntly or inconsiderately; be clear, don't dance around the topic and offer examples that make sense to the particular audience.
- It's ok to disagree or have a different opinion if you offer it respectfully.
It's a great exercise to ask before offering our two cents "Do I really need folks to know that I know/think this?" - but it's not worth keeping quiet just because it might be contentious.