Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Plain speaking

Some days I find the need to speak carefully to be exhausting.  By that I don't mean being considerate of the feelings of others; that's not a chore. I do mean the normal hesitation everyone feels when expressing an opinion or saying what we're really thinking.

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 the last bullet that's hardest. It seems lately that folks don't welcome debate as frequently any more.

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.

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