When ‘honesty’ goes too far

HonestyDo you work with someone who takes a no-holds-barred approach to sharing an opinion? Who prides him- or herself on “telling it like it is”?

All that candidness might be hiding something deeper. Here is what it’s often covering up:

Lack of confidence. When people are overly pushy, opinionated and judgmental, while others see them as arrogant, it’s often a sign that they don’t feel confident that they can live up to people’s expectations or their responsibilities. Rather than admit their insecurities, they attack others.

Communication tip: The last thing you may want to do is praise this type of person, but the best way to break through all that bluster, is to genuinely praise them when they deserve it and acknowledge their opinions, while also being firm about your own. Example: “I agree on two of your points, but I also want to add …”

Loss of control. Perhaps plans didn’t go as they hoped, they missed a goal or some other circumstance out of their control occurred. They feel frustrated and angry and can lash out at other people or point fingers. They may even insult other people’s work ethic or intelligence.

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Communication tip: Acknowledge what they are going through, and explain that you understand their frustration. Talk through ways to improve the situation or the outcome next time. Don’t allow them to insult or blame you or others. Example: “I’m not going to be insulted/I’m not going to listen to you insult … However, here is what we can do …”

Discomfort with responsibility. They are quick to make excuses or place blame, and never own up their mistakes. In many cases, they don’t want to let people down, so they eliminate any personal responsibility.

Communication tip: Build them up and explain that you have full faith in them. Most important though is to hold them accountable and not let them shift blame. Example: “You were assigned this task, and it was your responsibility to complete it, regardless of the circumstances.”

— Adapted from “Are You Telling It Like It Is, or Covering Something Up?,” Nate Regier, Chief Learning Officer, www.clomedia.com.