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.