The importance of candor is often downplayed in many parts of our lives. From personal to business relationships, most people are hesitant to be completely open and honest about their opinions. Many times we choose to withhold information, fearing that it will “rock the boat,” so to speak. However, in our efforts to remain inoffensive, we might actually be doing more harm than good.
Sometimes speaking your mind can cause problems. Uncomfortable feelings may be elicited from recipients of an open and honest dialogue. People may get angry, sad, or even confused when faced with a frank assessment of a given situation. Since childhood, it has been ingrained in most of us that the rules for decent behavior require that we hold our tongues and refrain from giving potentially negative feedback. It doesn’t seem to matter how true, helpful, or necessary it may be, we are mainly concerned with protecting other people’s feelings.
In business this can be especially problematic. When we withhold candid feedback in a company setting, we wear away at the fabric of our business. This can affect every part of a company and stifle necessary growth. A few examples might be that budgets might be unrealistic and run unchecked, performance appraisals will be falsely polite, and strategy sessions will be devoid of ideas. The list can go on and on, yet because we are more concerned with making things easier on ourselves, we avoid any conversation that we feel may cause conflict.
For a business to succeed, candor is a vital component. Ideas flourish in an environment where people understand the importance of having an open, honest dialogue. Necessary actions to resolve issues that arise can be taken faster, thus improving efficiency. With that in mind it’s still a hard sell. It is difficult to break old habits, especially in a company where business has been handled in a bureaucratic way for a long period of time. Even so, there are ways to try to change the way communication is handled within a company to encourage frankness.
Even though it is crucial in business to be able to have open and honest dialogue, there are caveats. People may see you as harsh, and your interpersonal skills may be questioned. It is risky to be candid, so you must decide for yourself if you are willing to take that risk.
Leaders can stimulate candid conversation simply by talking about it. Speaking about candor can encourage employees to be straightforward yet polite, when they speak. Giving praise also helps people understand how important it is to be open and honest when communicating. Another way to motivate others to have an open dialogue is to reward people when they are being candid. We all like to be recognized for our achievements and we tent to repeat behavior that is rewarded. It is also much easier to be candid when you are in a position of power, so a good strategy might be to use leading questions that spur conversation, thus providing a more stimulating work environment.
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