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Straight Talk is a Choice We Can Make

What It Is, What It’s Not and Why It Matters

I have a few questions for you. Have you ever. . .

  • felt blind-sided by critical feedback that delivered sooner, would have helped you in your career and/or your life?
  • had critical feedback to give to someone that would help them professionally, and then, did not give it?
  • wanted to talk with a colleague about a conflict but then avoided the conversation completely?
  • been surprised to learn “through the grapevine” that you offended a colleague and never knew there was a problem?
  • had a misunderstanding with someone at work and ignored it, only to then have the same problem continue to happen — over and over again with increasingly negative consequences?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then learning more about communicating using Straight Talk could help you be more powerful and effective at work. Straight Talk is a choice we can make.

What Straight Talk is. . .

I learned about Straight Talk through my association with the National Training Laboratory, also known as NTL. NTL is a global community of practitioners and scholars advancing human systems development. In the world of human systems development and organization development, a woman named Kaleel Jamison was a trailblazer. Her body of work related to Straight Talk continues to influence my work with individuals and organizations.

As described by Kaleel Jamison, Straight Talk describes spoken communication which. . .

  • builds on a foundation of respect for others
  • is clear, direct and honest
  • at work, provides people with information needed to perform efficiently and effectively
  • skillfully addresses difficult conversations and conflicts important to the organization’s success

What Straight Talk is not. . .

Spoken communication which is. . .

  • rude or disrespectful
  • intended to humiliate or embarrass
  • sarcastic or demeaning
  • patronizing or intended to confuse people

Why Straight Talk matters. . .

In organizations where people are not engaging in Straight Talk, there tends to be a lot of unhealthy, unproductive conflict. You know, the kind of conflict which feels highly personal and often damaging. The kind of conflict where you avoid the person or the conversation because you’re fearful of what you or both of you might say. The kind of conflict where you want to say something that you know you shouldn’t. . . something hard to take back or get past. We’ve all been there, myself included.

Organizations exist as a collection of people and many of us are uncomfortable when we recognize that someone has a different perspective than us. When the other person and the issue we disagree on matter, being able to lean in to a conversation with Straight Talk can make conflict not so scary after all.

Straight Talk is not just about the words we speak. . .

It’s also about the intention we bring to any difficult conversation. Whether it’s a conflict or just something awkward which needs to be discussed and sorted out, being clear with our intention for the conversation matters. A lot. When we come with an intention to understand the other person’s perspective and position, listening and staying open to being influenced generally follows.

When all is said and done, we may still disagree. However, because we practiced Straight Talk, we leave that conversation with our relationship intact. Maybe even stronger and with more trust and respect for one another. Perhaps more willing to re-engage and work together for a collaborative solution to the conflict or difficult conversation we might well have avoided in the past.

Straight Talk is a choice we can make. . .

When we make this choice, we build a communication toolbox we can practice with and develop. Will it be easy? Will communicating with Straight Talk always be comfortable? My short answer to both questions is No. However, it’s the best tool I know for building organizations with a culture that attracts and retains their people. You know, the kind of organization that people get up every day and want to go to work for. Now more than ever, we need more Straight Talk.

Get in touch if I can help.

Ginger Ward-Green

Ready to see what we can do?
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