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Why we need to stop using “I’m just being honest” as an excuse to verbally assassinate

Conflict in the office

You’re in a performance review and your Manager tells you that a couple of your colleagues think your ego walks in the door two hours before you do.  It’s ok though…. He’s “just being honest”. You’re having a discussion with a colleague and she raises her voice, points her finger and lets you know that “you should keep your mouth shut unless someone asks for your opinion”.  It’s ok though…. She’s “just being honest”. 

Maybe you’ve just finished a finely tuned talk that you had been preparing for weeks and someone you knew came with some feedback; “That’s the first time you have spoken and I’ve really listened”.  It’s ok though…. He’s “just being honest”.

Those four words…. “I’m just being honest;” they seem to give some people permission to say whatever they think.  After all, we live in a world of free speech.  But there are consequences, serious long term ones.  Not only have the trust and respect bank been depleted but so has the ‘discretionary effort’ bank too – whether we are friends or work colleagues. We don’t want to go the extra distance for these people anymore. They have hurt us.

We need to take ownership of our moral compass.  When we speak, our words can harm our colleagues and we create an emotional wake. Whether we like it or not.

We are complicated beings.  How we think and see things has a profound effect on how we communicate with those around us. The unhealthy thinking patterns that easily ‘assassinate’ others, and ones I see too often are these types:

Blamers. Those that always think someone else is the problem and it is someone else that needs to change. Blame thinking means you do not have to take any responsibility nor own anything. It’s a trap and you will never learn when everyone else is to blame.

Always Righties. The “I’m right. You’re wrong. The end” kind of tactics.  They need to win and will structure a conversation/argument anyway to get the outcome they need.  Including damaging those around them.

Black and White Thinkers; They jump to conclusions based on small pieces of information and sometimes none at all.  They are quick to label and quick to judge.

Catastrophisers; They tend to blow things out of proportion. Things are dramatic and “always” and “never” is common in their language.

The cost of these ‘honest’ yet poor conversations

Working with these types of people has a significant effect on the engagement of your people and the culture you create:

  • People will leave
  • The good ones will go first
  • Productivity will decrease
  • Absenteeism will become an issue
  • At-work accidents start increasing
So how do we navigate them?

There are three very important things to consider when giving ‘honest’ and constructive feedback.

Firstly, the content needs to be delivered with facts – not your opinions or feelings as these are often the damaging pieces. We tend to think that because our opinion or feeling is true for us that it is ‘the truth’.  It’s not.  It’s your perspective only.  Facts are proven trues.  They are undisputable.

Secondly, it is not what you say but how you say it that can makes the difference.   The difference between something said in frustration and with accusation, versus the same thing spoken tentatively and with compassion is enormous.

Finally, we also need to understand how we see things and consider that sometimes we might not be right.  Our opinions and feelings matter but they could be filtered with unhealthy thinking patterns that affect how we see things.  And in turn, what we say to others.

So next time you start a conversation with… “Don’t take this the wrong way but…..”  Think again.


About the author:

Georgia Murch 2Georgia Murch is an expert in teaching individuals how to have the tough conversations and create feedback cultures in organisations.  She is the author of ‘Fixing Feedback’ and a highly engaging speaker.  Visit www.georgiamurch.com