Whether you are typically cautious or assertive when it comes to stating your opinions without being asked, it is likely you shy away from telling a friend, colleague or family member something that you fear could hurt. The feedback could be as simple as letting a presenter know he has lettuce stuck between his teeth. It could be as beneficial as telling your co-workers their inability to collaborate with others is not only affecting the work flow but could come back to bite them in their performance reviews. Or it could be as helpful as sharing with your friend that people keep refusing her company because her negativity is a downer.
You want to let these people know the truth. You rehearse the words in your mind. You know your intent is good. Yet you still stay silent. Or maybe you share subtle hints, hoping they will understand and fix their appearance or behavior without you having to be bluntly honest.
We are humans who depend on relationships to survive. As adults, we rarely choose to deliberately do something that will hurt people we know. We especially avoid sharing a truth face-to-face that could embarrass, offend or wound someone we like.
On the other hand, it is likely you want people to tell you the truth even if it hurts. You might get defensive, but once you sleep on it, you realize that if the comments were made with good intent, they were helpful to some degree. So why can’t you return this favor for someone you care about or respect?
The next time you are anxious about sharing an observation that could hurt, first ask yourself if what you are about to share will help the person in the future or not. Consider that you might have been judging the person out of your own need to be noticed or right. Then, if you believe your intent is truly to help the person, contemplate these suggestions:
Find more communication tips in Marcia's books, Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction and Outsmart Your Brain: How to Make Success Feel Easy.