Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Straight Talk–Say What Needs To Be Said

secret-hearts-brianTry Straight Talk

Many of the  problems at work and elsewhere could be reduced dramatically if people would tell the truth in appropriate ways. Instead, problem solving is stalled by those who hint, pretend to joke, talk in round-about ways or try to avoid having conflict. 

I’m not talking here about the oft-mentioned Abilene Paradox, in which people think their ideas are not in alignment with the group, so they don’t speak up. I’m talking about what is essentially deceit, wishy-washiness and lacking character and courage. And what’s worse, many people will complain, worry and moan after the fact–when they had the chance to do something constructive,  face-to-face with someone.

It isn’t necessary to blurt unnecessary truths just for the sake of doing it. And, “in your face” confrontation is not effective either.  It is also true that some things are not worth confronting, even if they could be corrected. (If that’s the case, don’t complain about it to other people!) However…

If something is weighing on your mind,
If you want to say something about a problem,
If you wonder what someone meant,
If you are confused about instructions or directions,
If you have an appropriate thought or feeling you want to express,

….just do it, in a courteous way that seeks to find the truth and works within the situation. You will also save a lot of time that way–and you will get to the core of problems, rather than dancing all around them.

Look for these times when you need to say what needs to be said:

  • You wonder what someone meant by a remark they made.
  • You don’t understand the directions you were given.
  • You don’t agree with what was said or done.
  • You have a feeling that you want to express.
  • You don’t want something to happen again.
  • Someone is lying or purposely trying to mislead, and you know the truth.
  • You and others have complained behind someone’s back about their actions.
  • You wonder what someone else is thinking about a situation.

In non-conflict situations, straight talk may simply mean asking questions to understand what someone meant, finding out about what is confusing you or stating your true opinion. In situations of conflict, it may mean owning up  to your frustrations and irritation and telling someone what is bothering you and why. For a supervisor it may mean speaking directly to correct problems rather than hinting around about them. For an employee it may mean asking a supervisor about how work is going and what is needed for improvement, rather than wondering and worrying or being angry over an evaluation but not finding out more about it.

It’s called communication, and it should be as open and honest as professional situations and sensitivity allows.

If the person you need to talk to is higher than you in the organization, you may be limited in what you can say–but you still can seek to clarify an issue or express a feeling.  If the person is a peer, you should be courteous and professional–but if something needs to be said–say it. You’ll feel better about it and you can get a subject cleared up and out of the way much more quickly.

Say what you mean and mean what you say–it will save a lot of time, and in the long run it will improve relationships, your reputation and your effectiveness.

May 26th, 2009 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development | 10 comments


  1. LOVE the picture! So funny! But I sure agree with you about this. Sometimes I want to scream at how people beat around the bush and never say what they really want to say. Then, they walk away and tell someone else.

    When they do that to me here (which isn’t very often)I tell them I’ll go back with them if they want to say something directly, but I don’t want to hear them vent if they won’t be honest with the person bothering them.

    What REALLY bothers me is listening to people try to disagree in a meeting without sounding disagreeable. So they apologize and explain and take forever to say some basic thing. So, good post, as usual. Phyllis

    Comment by P.A.H. | May 26, 2009

  2. Tina says: Thanks for the comment Phyllis. I depend upon you!

    The picture is the cover of a comic book. I bought a bunch of them last year and scanned the covers so I could use them now and then. Glad you liked it!

    Comment by TLR | May 26, 2009

  3. I’m new to your site and think it’s great. I have a friend who will anguish for hours over what someone meant by a comment or look, and I tell her to just go ask them. I can’t understand why it’s so hard for people to speak up, especially since some of them mouth off about things that aren’t even important.

    People ask me to say something to someone for them, because they don’t know how. But, I don’t get myself into that!

    Good job. Joe

    Comment by TraderJoe | May 26, 2009

  4. I’m looking at that picture and I see there is something in it about “never borrow love.” Does that mean it’s OK to buy it, just not borrow it?

    I think I hear my mother calling me.

    Comment by Wiseacre | May 26, 2009

  5. Tina, my husband’s name is Brian. Do you mind if I use that photo? It’s so cute!

    Comment by Laurie L. | May 26, 2009

  6. Tina says:
    Thanks for the comment, Joe. I hope you keep reading here. I enjoy readers AND commenters!

    Wiseacre: Go to the corner and stay there.

    Laurie: I don’t know if I’m violating a lot of copyrights or not, given the age of the item and all of that. But, I think it’s safe for you to use it for Brian. Every day at least a dozen people “grab” the photos in posts and use them for I don’t know what. Sometimes it frustrates me (like the one of me and Elvis) but most of the time I just figure they’re like my friends who are getting their photos all over the Internet. I use items I’ve scanned, Casey’s photos, and photos from a stock photo site of which I’m a member.

    Thanks to all of you!

    Comment by TLR | May 26, 2009

  7. Picture of you and Elvis?? Hmmm….. Isn’t that the one where you are saying, “Elvis, be nice to Priscilla. She loves you.” But Elvis is looking at you and obviously thinking, “But not half as much as I love you, Tina!”

    Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

    Comment by Jeff Adams | May 26, 2009

  8. Tina says: Geoffrey Adams, you are a scamp!

    (Yes…that’s the photo.)

    Comment by TLR | May 26, 2009

  9. One reason I don’t say what I think is because I see so many people get in trouble for that in my work. If you say you disagree about anything, someone gets upset every time and you end up having to explain and apologize or you get called in and told you were rude or insensitive.

    Comment by AngelOverYou | May 27, 2009

  10. Tina says:
    Thank you for the comment, AngelOverYou. (I DO have one of those, I’m convinced!)

    I was especially referring to situations in which someone has the chance to be open and honest but they are not. Or, someone has asked them for their opinion, but they weasel around about it.

    I think managers should also deal with those who are so hypersensitive they can’t handle anything less than 100% approval 100% of the time. That shuts down effectiveness as well.

    Of course, sometimes “honesty” becomes an excuse for rudeness or hurtful comments. So, it’s all a big package deal of balance!

    Thank you for your comments. Do it again!

    Comment by TLR | May 27, 2009

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