August 13, 2003

You have all had the experience of either having to tell the tough truth…or, of having wanted to tell the tough truth. Two things are true about this experience. It is not always easy to tell, and it is not often easy to hear!

So what can you do to make both those things easier, and not compromise yourself by not saying what you believe needs to be said?

First, you can be prepared. When you know that you are heading into a situation that could be touchy or difficult, where emotions may run high, or where harm could be done if care was not taken, prepare yourself. Be clear about your issues and concerns, and about your boundaries. If you have completely thought through your reasons, reactions and responses to the situation, you will be far better prepared to express yourself clearly.

Secondly, be assertive rather than aggressive. Assertive statements contain no blame and no attack. Conveying both information and feelings objectively is respectful. Remember, when you are speaking about your feelings, you need to own them. Do not suggest that someone else creates those feelings for you…they are your particular reaction to your perceptions. When you need to tell the tough truth, take the time to express yourself fully. Give your perspective on the situation, your feelings about the situation and your wants regarding the situation.

Here is an example: ” I get very concerned when deadlines are approaching and I feel that the team is not pulling together well. It is my responsibility to bring this project in on time and it is important to me to do to this. This requires everyone being focused and collaborative.” This example demonstrates communication skills that lead to problem-solving dialogue.

Thirdly, you can be specific about what you want to happen or how you want to be treated. Whether in a work, family or social relationship, it is important that you take responsibility for teaching people how to treat you. If you do not tell someone how their behavior affects you, and it affects you negatively, then you are silently telling them that it is all right will you. Done assertively, not aggressively, most people will listen and respect your boundaries. If they do not or will not, that is important information for you. You may choose to remove yourself from the relationship. Also, when someone treats you well, be sure to tell him or her how much you appreciate it. Catching folks ‘doing this right’ is the best teaching tool of all!

Telling the truth is sometimes difficult, however, living with frustration, dishonesty or anxiety is more difficult. Learning to tell the truth respectfully promotes good relationships. John Powell wrote that “The genius of good communication is to be totally kind and totally honest at the same time.” Practice can create that genius!

International speaker, coach, author & talk radio host,
Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, is an expert motivator. She gives you
the strategies and motivation to shift your results from
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