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Let’s Be Direct

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February 23, 2015 by smallarmyjeff

How many times have you had a discussion that went something like this:

You:       Hey, what do you want for dinner?
Other:     I don’t care?
You:       OK. How about pasta?
Other:     No.
You:       Um, fish?
Other:     No.  Not really in the mood.
You:       I thought you said, “I don’t care?”

I am not sharing this to complain about my wife (the truth is that I’m not always the “you” in the conversation).  Honestly, when it comes to figuring out what’s for dinner, it’s not really that big of a deal.  But, when it comes to work, it is critical to be direct and decisive when communicating with other people.  Otherwise, we waste a lot of time, cause considerable frustration and raise barriers to progress.

I’ve found that here are several reasons why people are not direct and decisive. And when the real impact of that behavior is understood, changing it is easier. So, let’s address those reasons head on.

1.  You are scared of hurting someone’s feelings
Giving constructive criticism can be very difficult. This is especially important with performance reviews and feedback after a project. These are not times to beat around the bush. Be direct. Otherwise, you can’t expect them to improve if they don’t know what to improve upon.

2.  You are uncomfortable with confrontation
No one enjoys confrontation. But, if you don’t address issues directly (and soon after they happen), they linger and become much worse over time. Get it out. Be direct and let others know how you are feeling. It will be uncomfortable at first, but you will feel much better shortly thereafter.

3.  You have other things on your mind
We all have a lot going on.  So, sometimes, we are not fully present in the conversation (see example above). If the decision can be delayed, then find a better time to have the conversation. If it can’t be delayed then either focus and be decisive, or forfeit your stake in the decision. We’re having pasta for dinner. Deal with it.

4.  You assume you’ll be able to address it later
In the world of advertising (and many other industries), we often depend upon feedback from others (internally and externally). However, partial (or, to be direct, “half-ass”) feedback can often be worse than no feedback as it simply causes additional rounds of revisions (and time/money). We may have other chances to give feedback later, but last minute feedback (and headaches) can most often be avoided if we pay attention earlier in the process.

I hope this helps you (and those around you) be more direct and decisive – and helps you save time and frustration in the future. Now, what’s for dinner?

Have a great day!  And, of course, please feel free to add to the conversation with your comments below.

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One thought on “Let’s Be Direct

  1. Jeff, your advice is clear but the path to adoption is not. Directness can be taught but embracing criticism is another beast altogether. It is really difficult to retrain the fearful mind. Do you have any advice on coaching employees to embrace healthy conflict and criticism?

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