Honest communication is a gift. Why do we give it so rarely?

There’s one thing that constantly surprises me about the many workplace conversations I’ve facilitated. So much passion, so much emotion. Yet – so little honesty.

It’s a harsh call, I know, but honestly it’s the truth!

People often say to me, “If only I could talk honestly to that person!” I always ask them: “What’s stopping you?”

Their answer is always full of good intentions. They make an assumption that their honest feedback will be taken personally, and they don't want to hurt or upset the other person.

I find this so sad. The assumption that the other person is not open to the feedback denies them the opportunity to hear it, consider it and choose to accept it or not. It denies them an opportunity for growth or change.It’s like a gift that’s bought, then stashed at the bottom of the wardrobe and never given!

Feedback given, even if it’s not accepted or does not sit comfortably with the other person, can open up such an enlightening dialogue: “That's so interesting, that’s not at all how I see myself! Please can you explain to me, how is it that you see me in that way?” A new dialogue is opened, and it creates another way to change the existing situation.

Instead, I often see the consequences of people not wanting to hurt other people’s feelings in the workplace. The feedback is not given and the issue continues to affect the ability to work together. So the merry-go-round begins: people ‘debrief’ or ‘vent’ to other colleagues, complain about the other person’s poor communication style and how frustrating it is to work with them.

That’s how conflict is normalised: we avoid it and talk around it until the situation becomes so dysfunctional that a major intervention is required.

Communication is an art – and it’s also a skill that can be learned and practised. The aim is to be able to communicate safely: safe, because you know it's honest and you can rely on it. It means knowing how to connect with another person respectfully, listen unconditionally and attempt to see the world from where they’re sitting. The result is a joint exploration, building on each other’s strengths and insights, of how things could be different – and better.  

(Of course, this skill also means knowing how to listen to and respond to feedback that someone gives you – but that is the subject for another blog post!) 

Sometimes the most obvious strategies are the hardest ones to choose. My philosophy for resolving workplace conflict empowers everyone involved to find their voice in a genuinely supportive, psychologically safe environmentthat lets us bring out the best in each other, with kindness and compassion – and forgiveness, for the occasions when we get it wrong!

I can help with resolving conflict in your workplace, and provide skills-based training programs to prevent it. Find out more about how I can help your workplace relationships or give me a call on +61 413 145 925.

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