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Are You TOO Honest? Two Golden Rules for Communicating with Respect

My father used to say "Honesty is the best policy." Of course he would say that as a way to elicit some confession out of me (i.e. Okay, "I" broke the glass.). He'd then couple it with one of his other favorite expressions, "The truth always comes out." These beliefs left me rather neurotic and quite confessional: "Dad, I need to let you know that I went to a party instead of the movies and I was home 15 minutes after my curfew." However, this unbridled truth-telling took a turn and slapped me in the face as I got older.

Some people would call me "direct" while others began to withdrawal. As a manager and employee and human being interacting in a world of other humans, I began to realize that there was a limitation to sharing my truth. Worse, I was inadvertently offending people and ruining my chances of adequately communicating with them if I was TOO honest. I couldn't really tell people "I can't get a word in if you keep talking" and expect them to listen to me after that. I also couldn't get frustrated and declare "Would you please speak up and say what you're thinking?!" to someone that wasn't participating in a discussion.

The reality is that people can be like other countries--we need to approach them by appreciating their differences, learning their language and their culture (personality) while enjoying our vacation (interaction) with them. Here are two golden rules for communicating appropriately with people without blowing it and telling them why you can't communicate with them.

Golden Respect Rule #1 If someone is quiet and withdrawn, give them more space and allow for longer pauses to let them articulate their thoughts. RESIST THE URGE TO SAY WHAT THEY ARE THINKING (You're most likely wrong!).

Golden Respect Rule #2 If you're communicating with a long-winded talker and you want to flee, RESIST THE URGE TO SHUT THEM UP. Instead, try to acknowledge what you've heard them say or how they feel and then you can let them know you're a bit short on time (LONG-WINDED TALKERS STOP TALKING IF THEY FELT HEARD, BUT TALK MORE OR EVEN ATTACK IF THEY FEEL BRUSHED OFF).


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Tommy Yan

Hi Kimberly,

Thanks for sharing your story. At one time I was more than honest and direct--I volunteered information. That created more trouble than I knew how to deal with. I'm more careful today.

Be your best,
Tommy Yan

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