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Honest Communication is Needed

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JW Way #25 speak candidly Kathy Maitha

JW Way Fundamental #25: Candidly discuss, then align
"Healthy, respectful discussion creates better solutions. Discuss concepts without personal attacks. Check your ego and search for the best solution rather than proving you are right. Once a decision is made, be fully aligned and completely supportive of it."

Remember TV’s first reality show. No, not Survivor, the Bachelor, or even the Amazing Race. You may recognize its iconic slogan, “Smile you’re on Candid Camera.” In its day, creator and initial host, Allen Funt, staged improbable, sometimes embarrassing, and usually inexplicable situations in which ordinary people were caught on camera responding completely honestly, totally unabashed, and without pretense to outrageous pranks. What entertains us as “candid” reactions to the unexpected on camera, is not usually as entertaining in the workplace in difficult situations in which frank, honest communication is needed.

Be alert to the following potential complications in “candid” communication:

  • Power dynamics – this can occur in any relationship one individual always has more positional or personal power than the other
  • Defensiveness that may scuttle the conversation, and which may or may not be addressable
  • The surfacing of legitimate weaknesses and issues that one or both parties have no desire to address

Candid communication in the work place is more likely to produce good outcome when:

  • The communication is predicated in established, safe relationships. It is difficult to be completely honest when the relationship between the individuals is not secure.
  • Both individuals are to some extent willing to embrace vulnerability, to be open to new perspectives, and to be flexible
  • The focus is on the problem. Even if the problem is one of the individuals, personal attacks seldom attain open-ended conversations with good outcomes.

Alignment is key:

  • Whether or not all parties agree with the final outcome of the communication, alignment can be achieved if all parties feel heard and believe their views were respected in the communication. Sometimes, it is best to compromise on a solution in order to maintain ongoing relationships that are amicable. Being “right” is not always worth the cost of relational damage.
  • In order for alignment to occur, all parties need to commit to leaving their egos at the door when that door first opens.

Next time you face a problem requiring candid communication, just remember Allen Funt’s iconic slogan, put on your best smile, and be grateful your candid conversation will not be shared on national television.


About the Author: Kathy Maitha is an estate planning and probate paralegal at the law firm of Jaburg Wilk. She frequently facilitates workshops on critical conversations, relationships and leadership.