Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Say What Needs To Be Said, Why Don’t You?

Try 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. 

What’s worse is that often it is done in the name of not wanting to start an argument, not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings, not wanting to sound like a complainer, etc. etc.  But, while others are silent the situation gets worse.

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,
If someone has a habit or a way of communicating with you that makes you grind your teeth in frustration…..

….Communicate directly in a courteous way.  You will also save a lot of time and you will get to the core of problems, rather than dancing all around them.

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, friend or family  member, you should be courteous and appropriately caring. However, 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.

If you don’t really care enough to deal with a problem or it happens so infrequently that it really isn’t an issue, maybe you can leave it alone.  If you complain about it repeatedly to others, either give them a break and stop complaining or do something effective to bring the frustrating situation to a halt. 

You’ll dread it but once you start talking you’ll feel better. You’ll probably  find that straight talk would have been the best response all along.

July 7th, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 4 comments


  1. This is so true but so hard to do! I know someone who has two habits that irritate everyone who knows her to the point that they sometimes won’t answer the phone if they know it’s her. I’ve been on the verge of talking to her about it a lot of times, but can’t make myself start the conversation. Last month she was complaining about someone getting off the phone quick when she talked to her and she said she didn’t know what she had ever done to deserve being treated like that. I wanted to tell her SO bad, but I chickened out. Do you have any advice for how to start the conversation? That’s my biggest problem is just knowing how to start.

    Comment by R. | July 8, 2012

  2. I’m known for talking directly to people. Sometimes I’ve been accused of stepping on toes, but most of the time everybody is glad I said what they didn’t want to say. I agree with you 100% that it’s much easier to just say it and get it over with than to hint or joke around. So, here’s my next direct comment….you said you’d come to Laramie in April,May and June but you didn’t. No more excuses, come up here for a class before it snows again.

    Comment by smart aleck | July 8, 2012

  3. Tina says: R., thank you for the comment. I know it can be difficult to start the conversation. One way to do it is the way I advise supervisors and managers to talk to an employee with a long-term, unaddressed problem: Make the last time the first time and go from there.

    You can bring the behavior to her attention the next time she does it and question why she is doing it. “Jan, why are you making a humming noise while I’m talking?” Now you know for sure she is aware of it. (I’m just using humming as an example because someone wrote to me about that this weekend!)

    Then, the next time you can say, “You’re doing the humming thing again that I mentioned the other day. It’s really distracting, so don’t do that.” If she continues, at least you’ll know that it’s either something she can’t control or she can but doesn’t want to. If you continue to be her friend and she asks you why people treat her as they do, it will be much easier to say why.

    Incidentally, a lot of negative things have been said about “blurting” things that should be thought through carefully. That may be, but sometimes a quick blurt of the truth gets it out in the open. Then, you can use phrases you’ve worked on more carefully.

    Send me an email if you’d like to discuss this more. T.

    Comment by TLR | July 8, 2012

  4. Tina, this topic of doing something immediately instead of waiting and hoping things will improve, is the main thing that I learned in your training. It has been the “secret” of our success in the Communications Section here. I also am more likely to say something to friends and relatives, even though that is harder for me, for some reason.

    Here is something else, which I know you weren’t talking about in this article…..I am more likely now to ask people for input about my own actions. I’ve been told a couple of things that I didn’t realize I was doing so much and I stopped those things! Phyllis

    Comment by P.A.H. | July 9, 2012

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