Communicating Honestly Without Going Overboard

This is a guest post by my friend Eduard Ezeanu, @eduardezeanu.

When I started my first job, I quickly realized that my degree of openness in my communication was one of those things I needed to get handled if I wanted to thrive. I had an oversensitive ego, I was afraid to make a fool of myself, and to upset other people, especially those I perceived as being high status.

As I result, I would often hesitate to express my opinions, even if I deeply believed in them, to disagree with someone, even if I had the arguments to back it up, or to generally say anything potentially negative.

Understanding that most of my fears in this area were irrational or exaggerated, seeing that my communication style basically made me invisible and was sabotaging any chance I had of getting ahead, I decided to develop the skills and attitudes that would allow me to communicate honestly.

It was a journey which took me trough almost every tool available out there for emotional mastery and improving communication. I experimented with various techniques and exercises, I abandoned what wasn’t giving me the results I wanted and I stuck with what worked for me.

Eventually, what helped me the most was gradually getting out of my comfort zone and taking the perceived risk to communicate more honestly, as well as identifying my limiting beliefs and changing them using cognitive methods.

It took me a long time, but I had reached a point where I would say anything that was in my mind, without thinking twice. If for example, I was in a team meeting and someone made a proposition I thought was stupid, I would say it immediately.

Then at one point, working in HR, I got a 360 degrees feedback from my colleagues, my manager and some of my clients. One thing that came up in this evaluation I did not expect was a trait referring to my communication style. It was labeled as: BLUNT. Oooopsy!

It seemed I overdid it with my honest communication in some cases. How could this be? I thought honesty was a key trait of good communication, which builds trust and enhances performance. Was I wrong? Were all the trainers, coaches and gurus who said this also wrong?

The answer is no. As I dug into this feedback, I found out that people didn’t actually have a problem with me being honest; they had a problem with the way I was delivering my ideas. The word blunt was referring to the form rather than the content. I was expressing my thoughts in a very direct, even aggressive way, without consideration to other people’s feelings or opinions.

This was the problem. I knew how to be honest, I just didn’t know how to be tactful. So at this point, I decided to start learning it. As I did, my results in my communication skyrocketed. I realized this is a powerful mix for effective communication: being honest and at the same time, being tactful.

I was so impressed with this skill that I quickly stared teaching it to my clients, in my coaching and my training activities. I now call this skill constructive communication. It’s being expressive without being blunt, it’s communicating honestly without ignoring others. It’s The Skill to have in relating with others.

About the author: Eduard Ezeanu writes personal development advice at People Skills Decoded. You can follow him on Twitter at @eduardezeanu.

11 thoughts on “Communicating Honestly Without Going Overboard”

  1. Yes, this is exactly right! I learned the same concept in social work. Very often, you have to work within the constraints of the other person’s attitudes and beliefs, and if you are too blunt, which I can be as well, you will find yourself an unpopular person.

    But, if you can say the same thing in a more tactful manner and save the blunt comments for things that are near and dear to your heart, then people will respect you.

    Much of the time, we are simply lacking sensitivity for the other person’s feelings. Great post!

    Dan’s latest blog: How to Find Your Life Purpose.

  2. I was the same way when I first started working. Perhaps it’s something to do with coming out from the relative coccoon state of education and into the big wide world full of grown-ups that makes it feel a tad “sink or swim”.

    Eduard, you know how you had your lightbulb moment around “tactful” – I had mine around “I found out that people didn’t actually have a problem with me being honest”

    It’s amazing the variety of things that interfere with good communication and how recognising and working on the personal weak one helps strengthen the overall package – honesty, tact, confidence, words, empathy, rapport…
    .-= Reeta Luthra | Stress and Health´s last blog ..How to Make Better Decisions =-.

  3. Eduard – nice post. Finding the right way to communicate authentically is a challenge for everyone. This post shares some ideas on how to start finding that place. Good work and thank you.

    .-= Phil – Less Ordinary Living´s last blog ..How to Make a Living doing what you Love =-.

  4. Eduard,

    First of all thank you Dragos for inviting Eduard to guest post for you.

    As I read this I was beginning to think I had a twin elsewhere in the world.

    Joking apart this is a great post and help me realise and probably many others too, I guess, that there are others like me (them).

    Thank you for sharing this.


    .-= Paul´s last blog ..Rocky Road =-.

  5. This sounds good, communications does takes us a long way and is sooo…. applicable and relevant to almost every aspect of our life’s Thanks for sharing …..
    .-= Fatibony@Self help Motivation´s last blog ..Stay Motivated! Not With the Way I feel Right Now =-.


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