“You’re smart but you’re abrasive,” or “there was a definite discomfort with you,” or “your tone and language came across as condescending or dismissive” are all very difficult comments for anyone to hear. After all, we’re social creatures – as much as we tell ourselves otherwise, we want to be liked, accepted, embraced, and appreciated. That’s where professional maturity and the growing edge in each of us come out.
When someone you really respect takes the time to provide you candid insights on how your signals are being received – regardless of the intent in which they’re being sent – that’s NOT the time to get defensive or feel like you have to prove something. That’s exactly the right time to listen – really listen to what they’re saying, ask for evidence in observable behavior, and be humble enough to ask for help in overcoming that particular shortcoming. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t make mistakes and since behavior is consistent, the only place to go in business relationships when you receive the gift of candor, is up!
“Thank you for bringing that to my attention – I wasn’t aware that’s how I was projecting my position,” is a great next conversation. “Any suggestions on how I can improve my demeanor in this specific area?” Now you’re open and willing to listen, really hear, and internalize the recommendations:
- Let people finish their comments, questions, or perspectives;
- Share insights as a colleague not a teacher;
- Pick and choose your spots to add value = “here is what I’ve experienced, not sure you’ve seen the same, but could it be…”
My first impression when I heard this approach was “give me a break – I know the answers, why can’t I just tell them what I think?” Because they won’t care until they see the real collaborator in you as a peer vs. what is perceived to be a confrontational superior! That’s the fundamental difference between the art of business relationships.
Candor may be difficult to hear, embrace, or internalize at first; let it percolate a bit without a knee jerk reaction and it’s amazing how enlightening it can be in the morning! How has candor helped you grow personally or professionally in the past?
Which strategic relationships will you choose to invest in this week?