For the Leader in You

Never Struggle Again with Being Direct

Are you tired of struggling with how to be direct without being called a J-E-R-K? Or perhaps you don’t struggle, but you’ve been told you need to tone it down? Or—and this is quite possibly the worst for you—you don’t give feedback so that you can avoid the intense discomfort? Whichever applies to you, the bottom line is: all you want is to be able to communicate your message without drama, discord, or defensiveness.

But I Can’t Stand the Drama!

Have no fear: regardless of which challenge you experience in being direct, there is a solution. A simple solution, in fact. You will be able to say what you need to say without dancing around the issue. You’ll save time. Colleagues will actually be grateful that you were honest. And, most importantly, you’ll get the message across and effectuate the change you or the team needs.

Simple Steps for Saying “It” Like It Is

Again, just as in my post about manager bottlenecks, being “nice” is not the answer. In fact, being nice may make your skin crawl. It’s about saying what you need to say in a manner that doesn’t trigger defensiveness and leads to a productive conversation and resolution about the issues at hand:

The Preparation

  1. Anticipate: You know your colleagues; what’s the worst reaction you might get?
  2. Review Tips for Dealing with Defensiveness: There are many ways to avoid triggering or derailing defensiveness. Review my list (free download below) and identify the techniques you’ll use.
  3. Identify Outcomes: Don’t just start the conversation; be strategic. Using Step 1 of the Arudia Coaching Model, identify and be ready to articulate what you would like to see happen and what you would like to achieve from the conversation.   
  4. Own Your Own Stuff: That’s right, you need to own your own feelings and needs regarding a situation because, if you don’t, you are likely to be reactive and derail the conversation. Admit to yourself that you are angry, frustrated, or just plain “over it” because your need for communication, trust, or support wasn’t met.

 The Conversation

  1. Use Your Late-Night DJ Voice: Maintain an even, slow-paced cadence and tone to your voice.
  2. State Facts Neutrally and Be Concise. Avoid loaded words and don’t lecture.
  3. Establish Rapport: A common mistake is to do most of the talking. Don’t! Be sure to raise the issue without blame or accusation: “The spreadsheet needs to be accurate.” NOT “You need to spend the time to get the spreadsheet right.”
  4. Frame with Positivity: Start your conversation with a positive statement (that is also true!) such as: “I appreciate your commitment to this project.”
  5. Be Ready to Deal with Defensiveness: Expect resistance and ignore any potshots. Deal with defensiveness by staying focused on the goal. Don’t get sidetracked!
  6. Express Awareness and Empathy: You might be surprised that expressing awareness and empathy about another’s circumstances goes a long way toward creating a productive conversation. Do so at the beginning of the conversation and any time you detect defensiveness.
  7. Establish the Focus: Don’t forget to establish the focus of the conversation. This will help you keep it on track and allay fears that you are out to blame your colleague for an act or omission.

If you found this post useful, please share with your colleagues and friends and let us know what you’ve done to eliminate bottlenecks. You can reach me at or 202-449-9751.

Culture Matters

Dealing with Defensiveness PDF Download

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