We have all heard someone say “I just tell it like it is”, “I say it how I see it” or “I call a spade, a spade” and for some reason because they believe they are being honest this should excuse their hurtful, mean or just plain brutal behaviour.  Helene Vermaak, business director at The Human Edge says that there is no need to be brutal when you are being honest.

  1. Your beliefs don’t make it the ultimate truth. “The first step is knowing what it means to be honest,” says Vermaak. “Just because you believe something doesn’t make it the ultimate truth.”  Rather separate the facts from the stories you are telling yourself.  Understanding completely what the other person said or did will help you do this. To be influential in a conversation, you need to be able to focus on the facts – what you saw, heard or observed.
  2. Share your opinions as opinions, and not as facts. When engaging in a crucial conversation – a conversation with high stakes – you need to be able to separate the facts from stories. “Your strong opinions do not make facts,” says Vermaak.   You can share your opinions but don’t exaggerate them and then believe that they are the facts.  “By making our opinions seem like facts we are wanting to add more substance to our views and coerce those around us to agree with us,” says Vermaak.  We need to remind ourselves of what the difference is – facts are certain and stories and opinions can be changed or moulded.  The following phrases can be used when starting a crucial conversation:
  • “It seems to me…” rather than “The fact of the matter is…”
  • “The last three times …” rather than “You never try…”
  • “I’m starting to think that…” rather than “You don’t have any clue about…”
  1. Realise that honesty is not what you think it is. When being honest you do not have to express negative emotions, such as anger or nastiness.  Being honest means that you are clearer, more specific, sincere and above all authentic.  Honesty is not raising your voice, but rather when you effectively state the facts you have observed and your honest perspective of these.
    The four tips below can assist in conducting honest crucial conversations:
  • Start with heart – decide what you want to get out of the discussion
  • Share the facts!
  • Tell your story – this is your opinion of the situation
  • Ask for the other person’s perspective

By applying these steps effectively in your conversations, there is no limit to how honest you can be only a limit to how brutal you can be