I don't get it
Sorry, grandma. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t cut it.
When we were kids, I remember my dad telling us that his parents used to insist that he and his siblings: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Though I know my grandparents probably used this line of reasoning when minor infractions were involved (say when their children caught them eating an extra cookie after they told them they could only have one), that phrase always perplexed me.
When someone says, “Do as I say, not as I do,” I hear: “I want you to do the right thing, but I get a free pass not to.”
I don’t get it because their words and actions are at odds with one another.
And that’s a recipe for communication disaster.
Yet every day, I see the same thing happen in business. For instance:
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and walked away, unsure where they stood?
Perhaps you read something written by someone (an email, their social media profile, or piece of content), and they left you scratching your head?
Or maybe someone stated their stance but seemed to contradict themselves at every turn?
Clarity is crucial for effective communication, yet even when we think we’re clear, our incongruent actions can suggest otherwise.
This leaves others confused. And when you confuse people, you’ll lose people.
The solution? Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Honesty promotes progress
What keeps us from speaking freely is rooted in fear. We worry about ruffling feathers or how others will receive us, so we buy time by procrastinating. Worse, we may lie to ourselves and stay in denial, telling ourselves it’s not that important. But the longer we avoid something, the worse it gets, and the more time passes, keeping us stuck in an uncomfortable limbo.
If you’re hemming and hawing on having a difficult conversation, you’re only delaying the pain—and confusion. Once you muster the courage to rip the bandaid off and say what you mean, you can start to move forward.
It opens the door for new ideas—if you let it
There’s a big difference between sharing your opinion and presenting it as the end-all, be-all with no space for learning. Yes, you should find your voice and speak your truth, but don’t forget another essential element in effective communication: listening.
When you’re able to calmly speak your mind and then invite others to do so, listening to truly hear and understand their points of view without being defensive, you open the possibility for new ideas.
Candor doesn’t have to be cruel
Sometimes you’re asked for feedback, and you know it probably won’t be what the other person is hoping to hear. A friend of mine likes to say, “honesty without compassion is cruelty.” Rather than carelessly hurling candor on someone, use it as an opportunity to foster better communication and connection by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. When you consider your audience and how they’ll receive the message, you can use empathy to deliver criticism in a way that will be both kind and constructive.
You make it easier for others to understand you and your value
If you’re unclear, you’ll make others do the often difficult job of guessing about you and what matters most to you. And when we make others speculate, they can—and most likely, will—get it wrong. This is especially true when you consider what you are (or aren’t) communicating in your career story about your experience, skillset, value, and point of differentiation. So don’t be afraid to be hyper-specific about what you do and who and how you help. Niching down won’t eliminate opportunities; it enables you to attract those looking for you and what you have to offer and allows those who are not to fall away.
It inspires trust and confidence
Aligning your values and behaviors will help you stay true to who you are and what matters most to you, providing a sense of empowerment and clarity.
And when you clearly and consistently articulate your beliefs, you’ll come to be known as a straight shooter with integrity who walks the talk and inspires trust and confidence.
Or, more accurately, as a leader who says what they mean and means what they say.
The other thing about great communication?
It’s not about you.
In my latest Forbes article, I share the two best ways to embrace that mantra to improve communication, establish trust, deepen relationships, and grow your business.
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