The courage to use clear words

“I think this something we might want to take another look at.” During our long meeting certain words kept getting repeated. “Maybe,” “I think,” “probably,” “potentially,” “perhaps,” “might,” etc. Once I became aware of these words, my ear couldn’t help but hear them. “Likely,” “I believe,” “mostly.” There was no end. Clear language is a function of courage. It takes courage to be clear. It’s courageous because clear words may offend somebody else. It’s courageous because clear words may be wrong words. To spare ourselves the emotional labor, a number of us add mud to our speech. We sand down the sharper edges of our intent with extra words designed to soften the blow or make us seem less like a jerk. Here’s the big tip: Stop doing that. Find your position, be clear and kind with your words, expect to be wrong sometimes, and expect that somebody may be upset and somebody may think you’re a jerk. “I am concerned about ___ because ___.” That’s what he wanted to say, and if he chose this approach, our meeting would have been much more honest and fruitful.

by Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan is the Head Coach at Sandcastle Company, a Seattle-based leadership training organization. His first book, Future Leader: Rebooting Leadership to Win the Millennial and Tech Future [link], is now available. Jonathan regularly writes and speaks about The New Leader Way, leadership resilience, and the future of work. He has years of leadership experience in both the public and private sectors, a master's degree from Seattle University, and professional coach training from the University of Miami.

Filed under: Leadership

Published on June 17, 2019

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