Lunch & Learn: Direct and Straightforward

Posted: June 4, 2014

Carissa Hoel Director of Technical Strategy

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Every month, VisionPointers gather together for a Lunch & Learn where one brave volunteer presents on a topic of their choice. Last month, I chose to present on one of our VisionPoints, being direct and straightforward.

This might not sound like the most exciting presentation but it certainly is important. I chose this topic because it is something I struggle with. For years I’ve been sugarcoating issues and keeping thoughts to myself, believing the misconception that “being direct” automatically equals “being rude.” I’ve learned this isn’t true, but it can be hard to break old habits.

Since I know others face the same battle, I thought it would be helpful to review the basics and remind everyone of the benefits of being direct.

For starters, there is a big difference between being direct and being rude. Direct doesn’t mean telling somebody they look fat in their jeans. Direct means getting right to the point, being honest and being open.

The misconceptions:

  • You will probably hurt somebody’s feelings or offend them
  • It is much easier to be a people-pleaser and be nice
  • You will be considered rude
  • So why say anything?
  • Your opinion might be out of place and could be an inconvenience
  • Why would you want to cause drama or be difficult?
  • You might also fear being wrong or rejected
  • This is never a good feeling; it is easier to agree
  • In general, offering negative feedback in a tactful way is hard

I opened the floor to see if anyone could relate or if they had different reasons to be indirect. Most people felt that at some time or another, the above reasons led them to avoid a straightforward approach. Others brought up sayings we all have heard time and time again such as, If you dont have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. If we grow up learning that being a kind person depends upon never disagreeing, offering criticism or giving negative feedback, then why would we ever risk being direct?

Actually, though, the benefits of being direct outweigh the risks…

  • Direct conversations are more efficient
  • You get to a solution faster with goals that aren’t diluted
  • Being direct and straightforward builds trust
  • You are being honest and are respecting everyone’s time
  • It can be a huge relief when someone is direct
  • You’ve ripped the bandaid off, there isn’t guess work or gray areas, you are on the same page, they know where you stand and how you feel

Still not sold on a direct approach?

When extending an invite, how many times have you gotten one of these:

  • I’d really like to come, it sounds like fun. I have another thing going on that night so maybe I’ll try to make both. I could possibly swing by after dinner for a little bit and then go back to the other thing but I’m not sure what the plans are or if I can do both. But I hope I can.

Instead of one of these:

  • Thanks for the invite. Unfortunately, I already have another commitment and will not be able to come.

Or when asking someone to review your work, you get one of these:

  • Hmmm, well that’s interesting. The client might like that. It is a little different from the approach we discussed. Maybe we could look at another option. But then again, this isn’t bad. I’m just not quite sure.

Instead of one of these:

  • I didn’t find any grammatical errors but a few brand guidelines were missed. This deliverable can’t be sent until this is adjusted.

Frustrating, right? To further prove the benefits of a direct approach I asked my fellow VisionPointers to share other experiences with being direct or indirect and the outcome. The results proved that as long as tact was used, direct was the way to go. Without tact feelings can get hurt but there is still honesty.

So there you have it, a friendly reminder on the importance of being direct. This VisionPoint is crucial in building strong, collaborative relationships with our clients and each other. It helps projects run smoothly and efficiently and ultimately helps drive successful deliverables and results.

And for your friend with the unfortunate fitting jeans, I’m sure they would want to know their black pants are much more flattering on their figure. Just saying.