Why Didn’t You Tell Me?
When my clients share their relationship challenges with me, I often find myself saying, “If I was that other person that you are challenged with, I would want to know this!” The people you have relationship issues want to know:
- That they made the same mistake on virtually every tax return over the last two months.
- What they think passes for humor is actually annoying you or even hurting your feelings.
- That they disappointed you with their prospect follow up and the proposal they sent out because it was last minute and was too boilerplate instead of customized to that prospect’s individual situation.
- That their time management habits are impacting your ability to get your job done.
- That you’re frustrated that they keep coming into your office to “vent” taking up your time and that you feel that there is nothing you can do about the situation.
- That you’re feeling resentful because of what seems to a disproportionate workload that you’re carrying compared to them and you’re not sure why.
- And the list of relational complaints goes on.
Instead of telling the other person about the mistake, disappointment, frustration or unworkability that we experience, we often “excuse” it by saying it’s just their personality so it won’t change, we’re too busy and tensions are too high to address it right now (and then later, we don’t address it because it’s too far gone),, or we’ve tried to address it and nothing changes.
“The gift of truth excels all other gifts.” ~Buddha
To drive real change, we have to be willing to tell the truth. Most of us, however, don’t really tell the truth. Some of us completely avoid it while others “try” to communicate their disappointment, but what was actually said was wishy-washy with words like “I kinda wish you would…” “it would be nice if you…” “maybe next time if you could consider this…” “it sort of bothered me that…” The reason we speak like this is because we’re afraid we’re going to hurt the other person’s feelings or make them angry at us, somehow jeopardizing our relationship.
Instead, when the truth gets told, just the opposite occurs. People do want to get better and typically are not doing things just to irritate us or make our life harder. But, we have to be specific in our communication and come from genuine care and concern for the other individual – for their growth, success and interests – so that change does occur. And, when we talk straight we can truly discern if change is not going to occur and then take action accordingly. I shared a four-part approach (expectation, observation, inquiry, stop) that we teach to talk straight and generate collaborative solutions in my blog The Gift of Truth that I encourage you to read and practice it. Using this four-part approach will give you the confidence and power you need to have the conversations you may be avoiding so you can realize new results in your relationships, projects and client engagements.
I don’t ever want to be the person questioning, “Why didn’t you tell me?” about my performance or our relationship. I would want to know – and I think you would want to know, too. So, why put off sharing that “thing” that would help someone else get better, strengthen your relationship or increase your productivity and the results you produce together? Who will you talk to today? Share with us so we can empower each other in speaking the truth and making our firms great places to work, grow and thrive!
It’s a wonder what we’re afraid of by not sharing constructive feedback. I know it’s not the easiest thing to do but don’t most of us want to continue to grow and improve ourselves and our relationships? We crave that feedback because we want to please.
A couple of years ago I joined Toastmasters. This was the most selfish things I have ever done. The purpose was purely for personal development (not to become a public speaker!). One of the things I’ve learned is giving and receiving constructive feedback. We use a sandwich method when sharing feedback. You open and close with what someone did well and ‘sandwich’ growth potential in the middle. I have found myself using this method at the office as well as at home.
You have inspired me to go back and look at situations/issues that have remained unsolved because of lack of feedback and truthfulness. Thank you for this thought provoking blog!
Thanks, Kelly, for the thoughtful comments! We love Toastmasters, too, and I found it provides so much more than excellent public speaking development - critical thinking, organization of your materials (for meetings, presentations, writing, and more), "thinking on your feet," providing feedback as you mentioned and more! I hope the ideas I shared here provide you some additional ideas and tools to use to provide feedback and truth - we're glad to be your partners on this journey!
Great post. Candor is underrated and underutilized in business. Candid people are much easier to do business with.