Bluntness: Why it’s better, and how to handle it

Mr. President says: Just say it!
Mr. President says: Just say it!

Is straight talk the best way to get a message across?

Due to my experiences over the past year, I’m leaning towards “Yes.”

Where do we learn to sugar coat? Who was the first person to teach us that sparing feelings should trump all, even at the risk of not getting the true message across? The need to spare feelings is admirable, but it’s also a short term solution. If you think about all of the important lessons that you’ve learned in life, I’m willing to bet that some of those experiences were uncomfortable or even painful. Lessons such as not playing around the stove, or even how to pick the right partner, come with some pain. If we are blessed enough to come back from it, the lesson is etched into our memory forever.

Even at work, I’m learning that blunt honesty is the best policy. In the book “Crucial Conversations:  Tools for Talking When Stakes are High,” the authors say that not only is work a place were you can be completely honest, it’s a place where honesty can make the difference between innovation and life-changing outcomes, or stagnation and failure.

So, this sounds good in theory, but who wants to be “that” guy/girl/other gender determinant? People always hate the really honest person in the group, right?

Not at all.

People who know how to deliver the truth are the change agents in organizations, and are among the most respected.

So, what is required to use bluntness to your favor?

1.People must trust your intentions

If people think that you don’t respect them, see their worth, or if they don’t trust your motives, bluntness will sting even more. Before you become a beacon of trust, work to get trust among the people in your life. Without this, it won’t matter what you have to say.

2. People must see the importance of what you are saying

If you are blunt about something that doesn’t matter, then it will just seem like you are nit-picking. Do I care that you think that I am a slob? No. Do I care that you almost fell down the stairs after tripping on my drawls? Of course. Which leads to the next point…

3. Get to the heart of the matter

Being blunt isn’t the same as telling people off. Learn the difference between what has happened and how you feel. When it comes to the truth, start with fact, and own how you feel about said fact.

For example:

Get to the point! No one wants to hear you meander on and on all afternoon (BAD)

I’m sorry, I feel like I’m missing what you are trying to say. Can you clarify your point for me? (BETTER).

Now, dishing it isn’t nearly as hard as taking it, I know.  What’s the best way to take the truth?

1. Don’t take it personally

Even if the person says it’s about you, it’s not. It’s about them, and how they’ve chosen to take something you’ve done. Just remember: You are not responsible for anyone’s actions but your own.

2. See it as a growth opportunity

Someone is giving you feedback. You don’t have to take action on it, but you do have something to learn from it. Thank them for the opportunity and treat it as such.

3.Don’t rush to respond/L.I.S.T.E.N.

And by listening, I mean actively listening. Don’t just wait for the other person to stop talking, and don’t just listen to find counterpoints for their argument. Really hear them, and you may become less threatened and more understanding.

At some point, I will find a clever and discreet way to share my positive experience with bluntness, but for now, I’ll just say that it’s something that has done me a world of good.

2 thoughts on “Bluntness: Why it’s better, and how to handle it

  1. Ken drizzle

    But… I’m GOOD at finding counterpoints!


    1. Free Reeves

      and I’m sure you’re an even better listener. 🙂


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