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Even More: Honesty, Boldness, and Sins of Omission

Posted May 18 2009 10:13pm

It's clear that people do want to deal with truth, not a sanitized version of it.

Honesty, Boldness, and Sins of Omission generated comments that went below the surface to address, well, some truths.

Wally Bock and Dan Erwin weighed in with workplace and personal examples. I'm going to use both to hopefully shine even more light on the issues.

Dr. Peter Vajda   works with local business professionals in the Atlanta area on these issues quite frequently. Here is what Peter adds:

Honesty Few People Know How

My experience says few folks know how to have a conversation that may be uncomfortable...at work, at home, at play or in relationship...most avoid difficult conversations...the major reason being they never felt comfortable around conflict growing up..or learned how to "be" with conflict...and now as an adult, this "child-ish" reaction leaks out when the idea of conflict arises...leading to avoidance, excuse-making for not broaching it, or coming across like a sledge hammer....all defensive mechanisms.

What To Do that Is Helpful

1. Be conscious of any type of "history" (bad blood, resentment, jealousy, etc.) between you and the person with whom you want to have this conversation. If there is history, creating a container of safety will be challenging. Building that container will take time and it's wise to do so before having the "conversation." You'll need to create a bridge of trust and respect before having that conversation.

2. If you have behaved inappropriately or have contributed to any aspect of the issue, then you need to own that.

3. It's important that your motives are pure and heart-felt. If you make this a right-wrong, me vs. you, win/lose type of experience, it won't work. So, you might ask three questions: (a) what do I want for me? (b) what do I want for the other person? (c) what do I want for our relationship? All responses should have some degree of mutual coming-together "for the good of the order" perspective. Else, just more conflict or misunderstanding and mistrust.

4. Speak about specific measurable and observable behaviors...not attitudes or personalities.

5. Use a "soft" start-up. John Gottman, in "The Seven Principles that Make Marriage Work" (tools and principles that can apply as much to the workplace as home) speaks about the soft start up. Beginning a conversation without any flavor of: contempt, criticism, defensiveness or stonewalling. A "harsh start-up, on the other hand leads to emotional reactivity, emotional flooding and only creates distance between those involved. So, it's not about being "diplomatic". It's about NOT being critical or expressing contempt, even in a masked or subtle manner. No subtle or overt attacking - making the other feel "bad" or "wrong."

6. Most conversations that deal with conflict end the same way they start. So, if they start "softly", they'll most likely end that way...ditto, "harshly."

7. There's a way to complain, without being critical, without blaming, evaluating or judging. John Gottman's book as well as "Non-Violent Communication" and "Crucial Conversations" (Google, if interested) deal with this.

8. Do it now. Storing things up only serves to create cortisol and leads to stress and most probably a less-then-pleasant interchange.

Thanks, Peter.

What are your experiences with honesty and discussions?

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