The Fine Line
"I don't like him, he's really rude and obnoxious."
"I really like her - I can count on her to tell it like it is, so I know where I stand."
There's a fine line between these two perspectives. We value one but not the other. Rightly so. At the same time, there are people out there who think they're one of the above when they're actually the other. (Surprisingly so, at least to those around them).
In any interaction, and especially long term business relationships, it's important to speak your mind, to not sugarcoat a given situation, to make sure that no one has any illusions as to what the status really is.
We need to be clear about the situation and our views - making sure not to make the situation seem better than it is, but also making sure it isn't worse than it is.
More often than not, we will need to foster strong, long term relationships. And even if we don't think that's the case today, it never helps to burn our bridges.
How do you ensure that you don't think your at one end when everyone else believes you're on the other?
The foundation for this is intent. What are you trying to prove? An honest assessment or a statement of your status? A grounding for mutual development or an outlet for your frustration? Where are you coming from? What's your goal?
The second requirement is sensitivity. Yes, you need to tell it like it is, but you don't need to be a dick about it. Be thoughtful of your choice of words. Be thoughtful of your audience, and how they interpret specific signals, words, etc. Again, don't sugarcoat but don't use emotional terms. Don't personalize. Focus on the situation at hand and not someone's supposed motivations (they're not always what you think they are).
The third key ingredient is fact(s). Stick to what is observable, real. Don't bring in supposed ideas or perspectives. Don't bring in assumptions. They're not relevant and almost always, aren't productive.
The final element is a solution orientation. Don't go through the discussion without coming to a solution, or at the very least, a path to identify improvement, to progress forward.
Of course, this isn't always easy.
Sometimes, the emotions of a bad situation are overwhelming. Do the work to get to a good place anyway. Or, put off the discussion until you've calmed down.
Be cognizant of where you are and where you need to be. Be considerate of who you're working with and what their personal culture is. You don't need to agree with it, but you need to learn to work with it. That's the reality of it and that's the truth that matters.
Focus on building bridges, not burning them.