Saying It Like It Is

We all know someone, ‘that’ person, you know the one, who just says it like it is?!

The one who is always honest, truthful, and possibly even brutal in telling other people how they feel about a situation, or about people’s personality traits.

Although too much of this behaviour can be terribly annoying, and you don’t always want to be on the receiving end – do you sometimes look at them and think ‘I wish I could be more like that’?


In my experience, having a difficult conversation or giving tricky feedback to colleagues is one of the most common themes I come across in workshops and one-to-one coaching sessions.

My clients often swing between behaviours where they are ‘too honest’ and lack the finesse and empathy needed to really get the message across (they basically p*** people off with their controlling parent style) or more commonly, clients who would rather say nothing than cause an uncomfortable atmosphere with their team member or colleague. Sometimes, we don’t say what we feel so as to not cause conflict, sometimes it’s easier just to not say anything. 'Pick your battles' as they say…

Essentially, it all comes down to trust. If we have a mutual trust with another person, telling it like it is, being open and honest and giving feedback doesn’t seem like such a biggie. The feedback comes from a place of, I’m telling you this because I respect you and I want you to be aware of your actions so that you can improve.


“Trust takes years to build and seconds to break”


How about if we came from a place where giving feedback and resolving conflict had the other person's interests at heart? A very ‘adult’ mindset you might say, and not one we always have when feeling frustrated or annoyed. By making a few small changes you can start to build trust and develop relationships with your team that can last a lifetime.

I spend at least half my working week coaching and mentoring clients. As a coach, you have a limited time to build the relationship and gaining trust and respect is the number one priority. Not that easy when you have to give tough feedback in the first session! In the workplace, this has further implications. As a line manager you have a role to play, and giving feedback is part of that role. So building a trusting relationship is key, and sometimes we don’t want to ‘undo’ that by having to have that difficult conversation.

Initially, I find it useful to give the person permission to give you feedback. Then ask for permission to give some to them in return.

Maybe in a one-to-one or over a coffee…

“I’m trying to work on my communication style. Would you mind giving me some feedback after our team meeting so that I know what I did well and what I could do better? If you like, I can return the favour and give you some feedback on something you’re working on?

By giving the other person permission, you are opening the trust receptors and encouraging more open and honest conversations.

Also, to try and avoid it turning into a conflicting conversation, try seeing the situation from the other person's perspective before jumping in with your own views. These conversations are often based on opinion rather than fact.

Why are you having a difficult conversation in the first place? For your benefit (let off steam, my way is better than yours) or for their benefit (they can develop, grow, learn etc)


 Saying it like it is


If you’ve ever used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, you’ll know that your preference around making decisions can impact on behaviours when faced with a challenging conversation. Typically, those with a Feeling preference may focus too much on the person, not on the facts. They may worry about upsetting someone and skirt around the issue, not really addressing the problem.

However, they are great at demonstrating emotional intelligence in these situations and can often deliver the message in a thoughtful manner. 

Those with a thinking preference can often appear direct and lack empathy. They can see things in a very polarised way, for example, black and white and they may not consider the grey areas that are open to discussion. However, Thinking preferences are less likely to shy away from a difficult conversation and have great skills at addressing problems as they arise.

The key to using the MBTI when having a challenging conversation is to understand the preference of the other person and tailor your style to theirs. This way, you will be delivering the message that they want to hear in the way they want to hear it, ultimately addressing the issue more effectively.

In summary, if you want to be better at ‘saying it like it is’ then trust, empathy and effective communication are the (not so secret) recipe to success. If we can come from a place where we consider the other person before we speak, then communication becomes open and honest, therefore building a trusting relationship with your colleagues and peers. 

If you’d like to talk to us about how we can come into your business and help you and your teams be better at open and honest communication, please email us at [email protected] to find out more about our leadership development and Vibe 360 leadership surveys and coaching services.

We also run one-day workshops using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tool that can help you understand each other better – resulting in less conflict and fewer difficult conversations! Do get in touch with us if you would like to know more.

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