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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.”

Relationships, whether they be work or personal, depend on reciprocal candid dialogue among all involved to grow the relationship and achieve goals. To be able to effectively achieve goals, it is vital to create an environment where the parties to the relationship feel free to bring up what might be considered trigger topics in conversations. These trigger topics may be topics or advice that bosses, clients, or a significant other may not want to hear. Often times the reason candid conversations are met with anxiety or unease and even hostility is that the conversation centers around such a trigger topic.

Most people know that the freedom to be candid doesn’t mean you have a free pass to be disrespectful. A candid conversation with someone that involves addressing a trigger topic is already starting from a place of difficulty for the speaker starting such a conversation. If the conversation is not presented with consideration for the other party or parties’ perspective on the matter may cause hurt feelings, sap morale and hinder progress in resolving an issue. When having such a candid conversation, there are definitely positive ways and hurtful ways the conversation can go. Here are some ways to make sure no one’s misunderstood.

  • Focus on the good of the company. The aim of the conversation should be finding ways to solve problems or improve situations to build a better relationship, work environment, or to achieve a desired outcome together. At no point should the objective be to make someone feel like they are in the wrong or that they are on the defensive. The goal should be to foster a problem solving pow-wow, not foster division.
  • Stick to the facts. Favor verifiable statements over judgments. Stating objective facts promotes thoughtful investigation. Whereas stating an opinion about the situation often
  • Assume best intentions. No matter how much you may disagree with someone, it is generally a safe bet that he or she meant well, wants to do a good job, or, in the case of a client, honestly believes that he or she is 100 percent in the right in his or her case. Keeping this in mind can help prevent conversations from becoming too personal or accusatory. In the event that you happen to have the facts wrong or speak before knowing the whole story, you won’t look like a jerk when the truth comes to light. Always state your concern in a manner that recognizes effort or their side of the story.
  • Get to the point. Sugarcoating your feedback can raise anxiety and often muddles your message. Being polite but succinct shows others on your team that you value their time and know that they are professionals who can handle the truth when it’s presented properly.
  • Be considerate. Candor does not mean disregarding other people’s feelings. Take a moment to gather your thoughts and composure before presenting negative feedback and remember to keep language and tone civil. Likewise, avoid embarrassing someone in front of others. If a topic needs to be discussed in a larger group, avoid singling any one individual out without first talking it over with them in private.
  • Don’t kill the messenger. Finally, realize that it requires courage for someone to come forward with unpleasant news. Take an individual’s comments seriously, but not personally, and remember that they are only trying to make the company better.

Once you have had this (hopefully) productive, candid conversation, the ultimate goal is that you and whoever you are having such conversation then align together to work towards a desired goal. Aligning together in working towards a goal is easier when all involved are in full support of not only the goal/desired outcome, but also the manner in which it is decided to go about achieving said goal. Having a candid conversation in a way that fosters open dialogue and makes everyone feel like their voice, perspective, and opinion are heard and considered in a meaningful way usually leads to everyone feeling like they can align with and support both the goal and the method of achieving such goal.

At the end of the day, while there is room for debate about a host of issues, the best outcomes are achieved when people work together and act as a team with a common voice and aligned with a common goal.

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