3 Step Process to Practice Candor

April 17, 2015 | Roger and Susie Engelau

 Last week I wrote that you aren’t being nice when you lack candor in your conversations—it isn’t caring to string your employees along with indirect words containing mixed messages that leave them guessing at what you really meant. It isn’t good for your family members, your community, or your church mates.

Misconceptions about candor

Candor isn’t lobbing uncaring one-liners containing unsubstantiated conclusions. Heaven knows that’s contributing to the polarizing politics we’re currently suffering through in the US.

Nor is candor not being nice. On the contrary, candor is very nice; it comes from a place of caring. It’s not about your fear of the other person’s anger or perception; it’s about caring enough to give them the input or information they need to be successful – or to avoid further or future pain.  We don’t typically stand by silently while we watch someone walk into the path of an oncoming car so why would we stand by and watch them fail on the job?

I first heard of NICE during my days with ActionCoach. Nothing Inside Cares Enough =  NICE. It means that ‘if I care enough about others, I’ll share the open and honest truth with them to help them improve. If I’m selfish, and care more about how they might perceive me, then I won’t confront them.’  Here’s a short blogpost from one of the ActionCoach websites that describes how NICE people are selfish!

Not only does it take some guts to practice candor, it takes skill

Once you start talking directly and honestly, there’ll be a rough patch while people work through their initial surprise. Keep going with it. In the end, as Jack Welch says, candor “always works and it always makes work better.” Welch advises to start slow and use humor sometimes.  I googled “candid discussions and got a picture of George Carlin!

It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it

You can tell anyone anything if you say it with respect and come from a place of caring. As they say—it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. Here’s a 3-step formula:

  1. Start with your observation of the behavior or event: “Linda, in that meeting we just left, I noticed that you interrupted Bob four times.” State the facts in specific terms, using numbers when you can. The key is to NOT start with your feeling or your conclusion: “Linda, you treated Bob pretty rudely in that meeting.” That puts your listener on the defense and they won’t hear much of what you have to say.
  2. State what effect the behavior likely had. “I think (or I’m wondering if) Bob got all his thoughts out (or if he felt talked over).”
  3. You can either stop here and wait for your listener to respond (silence is SO effective) or you can finish with a 3rd step–Ask what your listener thinks: “What do you think?” or “Thoughts?” or “Did you get a similar sense?”

When you deliver a candid message, the key to conveying that’s it’s about the behavior vs the person is in how you start it. When you start with the pure facts of the situation, you’re not putting anything critical, evaluative, or judgmental out there. The next time you decide to speak with candor, if you do nothing else, start by saying what you observed and you’ll get a receptive response and a solution-focused result most every time.

How to get candor if someone else is beating around the bush

Sometimes you need others to practice candor. Try saying things like “What is it you’re really trying to tell us?” or paraphrase with “So what I think I hear you saying is…”

You’ll be surprised how quickly candor catches on.  People crave it and once they see that not only did everyone survive it, they thrived as a result of it, they’ll jump on board.