Speaking Straight: Honest and Forwarding

Speak in a Way That Forwards What You Want to Accomplish

Speaking Straight–to speak honestly in a way that forwards what we’re up to, that contributes to what we’re engaged in accomplishing together. So, here in this practice, I’m learning to and practicing being as honest as I can, as truthful as I can, as clear as I can, as discerning as I can, and I’m striving to be clear about what part of what I’m saying is my interpretation–my view of the situation–and what are the facts, and how are those two connected together.

Take Responsibility for the Impact of What You Say

I’m also taking responsibility for the impact in what I’m saying. How’s the other person hearing it? And I’m striving to say it in a way that they’re able to hear it and engage with what I’m saying in a productive way so we can actually work together, collaborate together. And when I seem to miss the mark in that, and I’m having an impact that’s inconsistent with what I’m intending to have, then I want to care for that, attend to that, so that we can true up our understanding and really work together effectively. So, obviously that’s going to require Listening Generously. So, as I am speaking, I’m Listening Generously and being for the other person in a way that allows me to pick up these signals and address them. Also, as I’m speaking I’m truing up what I’m saying. So, if I catch myself exaggerating or understating something or kind of fudging a little bit what I’m saying–it’s like, whoops, let me correct that, let me recenter and clarify, bring clarity to what I actually am intending to say, what I actually want to say. 

Speaking Straight Is Not a License to Attack or Demean Someone

Now, clearly examples of not Speaking Straight in this way are things like if I deliberately misrepresent the facts, or misrepresent how I actually view the situation, or I attack somebody, or I demean somebody. These aren’t examples of the practice of Speaking Straight. And by the way, it’s really important that if someone says, “I just want to speak straight,” and then they attack someone or take another action that’s inconsistent with Speaking Straight, it’s important to address that. So, many times that could be addressed by just saying something like, “Excuse me, help me understand how what you said is forwarding or contributes to this situation?” Or if the person seems upset then maybe you want to do some recreating: “Well, it seems like you have a lot of passion about this right now. Help me understand what it is that’s going on here and what you’re committed to.” So, if I do some re-creation I can get over in their shoes and come to appreciate: almost always there is something they’re committed to, and they actually do want to contribute. It’s just the way they’re speaking is making it difficult for that to be heard. Sometimes, it also would be useful to have an offline, one-on-one, some coaching and conversation to clarify what Speaking Straight is. If we don’t support people in being clear about what it is and support them when they misuse the term Speaking Straight, then that misuse will grow in your organization.

The Practice of Speaking Straight Is a Learning Journey

So, let’s appreciate that Speaking Straight–to speak honestly in a way that forwards what we’re up to–is a learning journey. And I’ll learn from my successes; I’ll learn from those places where I stumble; I learn from the feedback I get from other people; and I can learn from attending to those places where I’ve made impacts that are inconsistent with my intent so that I can get stronger and stronger, more and more skillful at my practice of speaking honestly in a way that contributes–so I can be very straight about really, really difficult situations and do that in a way that, instead of reactivating the person, I do it in a way that they can actually hear what I have to say. It’s not going to help us if they get upset. I, at times, must take that risk that they may get upset. Then if they do, I want to care for that so that we can then communicate with each other, and what I’m trying to say can get heard, and I can hear what they have to say. A real challenge, and a challenge we’re taking on–getting more and more skillful at the practice of speaking honestly in a way that forwards what we’re up to together: Speaking Straight.


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