I struggled for the longest time with being straight with the people in my life. To be honest, the thing that stood in my way of clear direct communication was fear. I wanted to be liked and I didn’t want to rock the boat.
And inwardly I believed that somehow I was the one at fault – so how could I possibly ask others to do things differently?
When I began coaching business owners and entrepreneurs over 9 years ago I realized this was a common challenge for many owners and leaders.
Many owners have confided to me, “When it comes to confronting one of my assistants or employees, I just stick my head in the sand and hope that somehow the problem will go away on it’s own.”
Or, “I don’t know how to offer feedback in a way that won’t feel like I’m blaming them.”
Or, “I will completely avoid feedback unless I’m angry or upset and it is only then that I find the courage to confront someone else – of course my feedback isn’t received well because I’ve waited so long to communicate my concerns that my feedback is filled with criticism and resentment.”
I have discovered that one of the most effective ways to empower others is to be straight with them. And that requires that I address concerns head on and let the people in my life know when things aren’t working and when they will no longer be tolerated.
- One of my personal warning signs that I need to have a conversation with another person is when I become aware that I’m feeling resentful.I no longer confront someone during the heat of the moment, when I’m feeling upset – instead I choose to give myself some time to cool down first.
However, I am committed to offering feedback the day it occurs. Otherwise if I wait too long I’ve found that I end up not offering any feedback at all.
- Being straight with others does NOT mean that I’m being negative – it’s actually about being me being positive. Because I am simply talking about “what’s so.”For example, an owner might say to a team member, “You said that you were going to make a service call to Mrs. Johnson by the end of the day but you didn’t – I’d like to have a conversation with you about why that didn’t happen.”
- Before offering feedback I always explore my part first. What’s my motivation? Is it to make someone else wrong or is it to empower him or her?I can discover my motivation by asking myself, “Why do I want to address this issue with this person?” If I notice that I want to make them wrong – I’m probably not going to have a very powerful conversation.
- I create a background of shared vision or values. Before talking to them, I set the context for the conversation by talking about our shared beliefs and values.With my husband it might sound like, “I know both of us want to be the best parents that we can possibly be for our son – would you be willing to talk about what happened earlier today when he got upset and how that situation was handled?”
- I focus on co-creating a solution instead of telling others what to do.
Together we explore “What’s working in this situation?”; “What’s not working in this situation?”; “What can we try that’s new and different that might make a difference?”
This is considerably more powerful then jumping in and telling others MY solution and expecting them to be excited about implementing it.
- Together we discuss action steps and agree on deadline or timeframe to implement our new approach/idea.
- I keep complaints out of my requests and instead focus on stating my requestas clearly as possible.
Talking straight to others is definitely a work in progress for me. My automatic response is to want to avoid addressing my issues and concerns with others.
But I find when I communicate on the day the upset occurs, after giving myself some time to cool down, that I go to bed at night feeling excited about the straight conversations that I’ve had with others.
I’ve found that when I’m willing to address issues head-on not only does it move things forward – but I’m able to have more authentic and powerful relationships in my life!