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Give It to Me Straight- Communicating Directly and Constructively

Posted on Jul 10 2015 under Blog Posts

verbal-agression-e1294095402272It is a widely known fact among my family and friends that I am direct. I am not a person who beats around the bush or sugarcoats. The Free Dictionary by Farlex defines beating around the bush as “To speak evasively or misleadingly, or to stall or waste time.” Merriam-Webster’s definition of sugarcoat is, “to talk about or describe (something) in a way that makes it seem more pleasant or acceptable than it is.” Many people I have found tend to dodge or pacify their delivery of certain messages to avoid conflict. Or, they dodge and pacify because being direct makes them uncomfortable. I am not afraid of conflict because I learned how to resolve and manage it efficiently and constructively, which is a skill everyone can learn! Even before learning these skills, I was direct. I have always been this way because I observed when I was growing up that when people are not straightforward they are leaving room for misunderstanding. I also feel there is a misconception that being direct means you must be nasty or hurtful. There is an art to delivering a direct message in such a way that it is received well, and the recipient is not offended.

So what is the best way to deliver a direct message?

  1. Plan out what you will say before the conversation happens.

My fiancé often thought I overly prepared when I was speaking to someone about an uncomfortable topic because I would plan out what I was going to say. However, recently he had an awkward conversation that required directness. He prepared beforehand and in doing so he felt that it assisted with the effectiveness of his delivery. I recommend saying things out loud because hearing the words spoken allows you to critique and alter whatever is needed.

  1. Talk directly to the person who you want to receive the message.

Never relay your message to someone and ask him or her to talk to the person in your place. First, this is a complete cop-out. Second, it can hurt the person’s feelings especially if the message being delivered is a difficult one. While technology has provided many outlets for communication, I believe face-to-face is always best. If you must give a message in a different form make sure you are the one doing it.

  1. Communicate the message honestly, but do not be hurtful.

Anytime a person feels like they are being attacked they will get defensive. The moment someone gets defensive the possibility of conflict increases. There are several ways to deliver a message directly so that it can be well received. I outlined my two favorite tactics below.

Tactic #1 – Ask a question. If a friend is consistently late when meeting you for lunch rather than saying, “Leah, you are late again, I have been waiting for fifteen minutes, and it’s rude.” Most likely, Leah will get defensive. Instead, you could say, “Leah, I noticed you are often running late when we meet for lunch, next meeting would it be more convenient to pick a later time?” The same message is being conveyed, but Leah will be less likely to get defensive.

Tactic #2 – Make a comparison/empathize. When I was on my high school’s dance team, we learned a challenging routine that we would be performing at a basketball game. One of my team members was struggling with a combination. I pulled her aside and said, “I noticed that this combination was giving you a hard time. I had issues with it too; let me show you a trick I used that made it a little easier!” I was able to address directly an issue and show that I too had struggled. Many times when people speak directly to others they can come across as condescending or snobby, pointing out your struggles and flaws can assist in keeping a the conversation balanced.

The more people practice being direct in a non-confrontational way, the least likely misunderstandings will arise.

Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice


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