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Professional Conversations: 7 Strategies to Speak Candidly

Graphic Showing Boss Review PaperCan you think of a professional conversation that’s made you feel uncomfortable? Do you know why your conversation felt uneasy?

The reason is your message was missing candor, or the ability to speak plainly and not hold back what needs to be said.

Speaking candidly allows you to get your point across without coming across as too harsh. It reinforces your credibility and establishes your leadership presence.

Professional Conversations: What Not to Do

When you don’t speak candidly, it causes others to feel suspicious about your intent.

In conversation, you’re not being candid if:

  • You don’t maintain objectivity
  • You resort to blaming or shaming
  • You use superlatives (always, never)
  • You do not offer specifics & examples
  • You beat around the bush
  • You minimize & apologize
  • You “protect” someone from the truth
  • Your message is not clear

Professional Conversations: 7 Strategies to Speak Candidly

Now that you know what not to do, here are some strategies to improve your ability to speak with candor,  per Workplace Conversations:

  1. Have clarity of purpose for the conversation
  2. Identify emotional triggers -- yours and the other person’s
  3. Check your assumptions
  4. Focus on positive outcomes
  5. Organize your thoughts
  6. Know and be ready to share specific examples
  7. Say “we” and “I” (vs. “you”)

Increase Your Value Speaking Candidly

Sometimes providing feedback to senior leadership can be intimidating. But if you provide insightful feedback and ideas you will position yourself a thought leader, increasing your value to your company.

In 2017, I started a brand new role, at a new company. Wanting to be a great new asset to the team, I was diligent about doing research to fulfill my tasks as well as I possibly could. I noticed that a few ways we were approaching things could be more efficient. With my research to back me up, I took my ideas to the leadership team and presented them. My suggestions were well received because I made sure to speak with candor. I had a clear purpose for the conversation, I focused on the positive outcomes of improvements, my thoughts were well organized, I had specific examples to support my ideas, and I purposefully used the word “we” to make it clear we were a team.

Candid conversations need to be prepared for. Often, the time and situation is not right because your emotions and motivations aren’t in check. Your conversation shouldn’t be about payback or feeling superior, it’s about your team’s productivity.

When you feel that your conversation can be constructive and helpful, then it’s time to have that conversation!

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(Note: Workplace Conversations is also available in team training sessions.)

(Renee Witko is an Inbound Marketing Strategist at protocol 80, Inc. She handles client management, account management, reporting, and strategy for a variety of B2B and B2C clients.)