Tuesday, October 25, 2016

People do not want you to be honest with them...

People never come out and say, "Lie to me," but when you think about it, you know you've gotten in hot water over telling people what you think.  It happens more often than we'd like to admit, but calling it "like you see it" is usually controversial.

As much as we hate to be lied to, the reality is, most people can't stand it when you are honest with them.  No, I'm not talking about discussing financial transactions or answering questions surrounding your personal accountability.  I'm talking about circumstances like the advice you offer, voicing your opinion, and sharing what you really think about the person you are talking to.

Without trying to sound too cynical, people often don't want to hear truthful statements, and even more often, they aren't able to handle them.  I've seen this resistance to our honesty played out in many different settings.

Leaders "at the top" are notorious for surrounding themselves with people who shield them from negative information, this can be true anywhere, in church leadership meetings, in construction leadership forums, all the way to just sitting around with friends.  People struggle with hearing the truth.  Whether you are talking "politics" or discussing current events, not everyone wants to hear what's on your mind.

Does this mean we should just tell people what they "want" to hear?  How can we maintain our integrity and still be able to communicate with people who tend to "shoot the messenger?"
Here are some steps we can take that can help us communicate respectfully, openly, and with honesty:

Ask for permission to be honest.
That sounds a bit derogatory, but it's necessary to building healthy relationships.
You don't say, "Please give me permission..." but you certainly ask questions like, "Do you really want to know...?"

Ask more questions while offering less answers.
People like to share their views, more than they care about what you think anyway.
Asking, "Have you thought about...?" instead of just blabbing what's obvious can help facilitate more meaningful conversations too.

Ask others how they see the situation or their views on the subject, and wait for them to ask your opinion.  Sometimes, believe it or not, people not only don't want your honesty, they don't want to hear from you.

Leave room for future conversations on the subject with a phrase like, "I should give this more thought before I answer."  This not only builds a little anticipation, it also lets people know you are more thoughtful than reactive.

Ask if you need to, or if you can clarify what you mean.  Sometimes people don't question your opinions half as much as they question your intentions.  Providing deeper explanations can increase understanding, and that always helps you to get your point across.

So, the next time you think about sharing an unsolicited piece of advice or simply saying what's on your mind, slow down and remember not everyone is ready to hear you out.  Not yet.  It's better to be asked what you think, than it is to say what you think and have people overreact to the truth.  

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