I recently asked someone for feedback and they gave me their honest opinion. I was lucky. Their honesty inspired my thinking and opened up my mind to new ideas so I could turn something good into something great. The magic was in the way they were honest. I like the transitive form of the verb debate which means to turn over in one’s mind as in “he’s still debating what to do” (Merriam-Webster online). If we could take that stance during discussions where everyone does not agree, instead of building fortresses behind our opinions, maybe, just maybe we would learn something from one another that would cause us to turn over in our minds. Let’s look at the honesty debate. The website displays the results of asking the question ” Is honesty the best policy?” – responses were split down the middle. 57% said they felt honesty is the best policy and 43% said no it’s not. The classic arguments are both in the comments: The one for not being honest to avoid hurting someone, as well as the argument that you lose trust when you are not honest. Being honest is tough at times because it reaches into our values, shakes them a bit and can put us at odds with each other if we are not good at it. That’s the risk you take. The risk of misunderstanding, offending… Is it worth it? YES! Some people don’t know how to be honest in a constructive way. Big surprise. Well, it was for me. It has taken me years to realize I can be honest without being abrasive or sounding like a know it all. Here are a few lessons learned:

  1. Ask questions to gain understanding versus making assumptions. Questions like “why do you feel so strongly about that process” or “do you see any other way we could do X” ? Assumptions shut people and conversations down. If you find yourself assuming something, ask if it is true.
  2. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes (especially if you are the boss or leader) and let them talk about why they did what they did or feel the way they do. Be kind, there is no reason not to.
  3. Look at all possibilities or at least a few. You might end up using parts of many ideas or combining all of them.
  4. If you are stuck draw a continuum on a white board and plot where you stand on the items in question. You’d be surprised at how close you might be to agreeing when you plot it out. Then, you can list where you agree, where you disagree and next steps to closing the gap.

If you ask me the question, I would say yes, BUT only if you can do it in a constructive way.