I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have gotten myself into a bit of trouble with someone else for being direct. I learned to be this way from the Israelis. They choose to be direct rather than popular. I loved that about them and it became my way as well.
If a woman asks me how she looks in a particular outfit or dress, I am going to tell her what I think. I won’t be rude about it, but I will be honest. If, for instance, the woman’s dress looks a little tight or the color is wrong, I’m going to say so if asked. This is where sharing my candid opinions sometimes makes me unpopular. There is nothing phony about me. It is just the way I am. If being a straight shooter gets me into trouble once in a while, so be it.
Despite the obvious drawbacks of being direct, like hurt feelings, there are some benefits to be enjoyed on both a personal and a professional level to being someone who says what you mean.
People come to appreciate directness over time. Being known as someone who gets right to it in a real and honest way helps people feel confident in my responses. There is never any second-guessing me. People who know me know that they can trust in what I’ve told them the first time around as my best advice, spoken from the heart. They know that I am going to say what I really think, even if it stings a little.
Being able to speak honestly and directly about tough subjects has served me very well in my professional life as a counselor. I would not be doing my patients any justice by sidestepping the truth. We have to meet problems head-on, and there is nothing to be gained from dancing around it.
Being direct helps establish trust between people. If you need an honest opinion, would you rather ask the person who tells you what you want to hear or the person who tells you the truth? If you become the person who is known for telling it like it is, people will trust your word and come to you as a trusted advisor.
I’m certainly not advocating a disregard for people’s feelings. No, we must always be diplomatic when dealing with others, especially professionally. But I am advocating for frank and straightforward communication. It shows honesty, respect, and sincerity. These are all traits worth working on.
What do you think? Do you prefer that people communicate candidly with you or do you prefer that they add a little sugarcoating when answering your questions? What approach do you take at home? At work? If you have two different approaches, why?
-Dr. Erica Miller