How to Be Honest Without Being Mean
Having to address tough topics at work or with people you care a ton about is the worst, even when you’re a crystal-clear communicator who has perfected the art of body language, never interrupts anyone, and has mastered walking that fine line between confidence and cockiness. After all, no one wants to share something that might sink someone’s spirit or cause conflict. Since we all want to be liked, and having to share something less-than-stellar at some point is pretty much inevitable, we talked with Raleigh, NC-based Thumbtack pro and certified life coach Lisa Kincaid. She reminds us that being likable is about more than just feeling good — it can directly impact your career success and personal relationships — so she’s sharing how you can say what needs to be said in a way that’ll help you keep the respect you’ve worked so hard to earn.
Why We Care About Being Likable
Kincaid believes that being able to stand your ground while maintaining your relationships is critical for living a life that’s true to who you are and what you believe in. But she also thinks it’s vital to pay attention to how you do it: “Whether it’s personal or professional, being ‘likable’ matters because it increases your ability to lead others, create, and inspire others.”
When we ask for specific contexts, Kincaid clues us in that this applies in biz, personal endeavors, and all kinds of relationships, and she reminds us that you’ll always want and need people in your corner. “Remember that the idea of ‘likable’ is much more than just being a nice person. It’s about being approachable and having the ability to feel and convey empathy, compassion, humor, trustworthiness, and confidence.” In other words, being likable is super closely tied to emotional intelligence — a skill Kincaid promises can be developed and improved.
Tactics to Maximize Your Likability
Anyone who’s had to speak up knows how hard it can be. Since fears range from being perceived as a bad person to feeling vulnerable or even stepping on toes, Kincaid is giving us some tried-and-true tactics to consider when having to say something that the other person will be less than ecstatic to hear.
1. Share with honesty. “Leading with honesty (and not hiding facts) promotes quick respect,” Kincaid advises. “People tend to know when things aren’t exactly as they seem on some level, which can lead to distrust and/or a defensive response.” She explains that when you tell it like it is, without delay and with honesty, those receiving the bad news or an opinion you’re afraid to share are more likely to receive it well and respect you.
2. Embrace your positivity. Though consistently being the most cheerful person in the room might earn you a few eye rolls, Kincaid says being positive packs a major punch when it comes to being perceived as likable in a tough situation. “When you need to speak up or deliver bad news, try focusing on what the best-case potential solutions or outcomes could be,” she shares. “This will help you get everyone looking forward to a path of possible success.” How inspiring!
3. Don’t forget about compassion. Remember: It doesn’t matter *how* great you are at anything if you totally fail to treat people with respect and compassion. “You won’t succeed for long without learning how to work well with others,” Kincaid emphasizes. “Life requires us to do this on so many levels. To get ahead, succeed, and be heard, make personal connections with how you communicate. Take what’s happening to others to heart. Be a good listener, and you’ll open the door for good things.”
4. Invite discussion and collaboration. “When you have to deliver bad news or speak up, always invite collaboration! Never, ever walk away leaving something heavy in someone’s hands or heart,” Kincaid suggests. “Speak up, but ask questions too. People will have a way easier time moving forward when they feel like they have a safe space to share their thoughts and ideas.” We can totally get behind this beautiful advice.
5. It’s okay to be vulnerable! Being vulnerable is super scary, but sometimes it’s just what you’ve gotta do. Like a company CEO whose company crumbles or a lawyer who does their best to represent a client and loses, being truly vulnerable when sharing the worst will show how human you are AND resonate with your audience. “When appropriate, being vulnerable triggers engagement and likability,” Kincaid agrees. “Though we all can come off as defensive or try to distance ourselves from a problem or something uncomfortable, the ability to open up will set you apart. You’ll show people that you aren’t selfish, critical, or a know-it-all. You’ll demonstrate how much you care.”
Have you recently had to share something upsetting, or have you been on the receiving end? What helped soften the blow? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)
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