There is an art to speaking with candour

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This whole subject arose in a leadership coaching discussion with a recently appointed executive general manager who had received comment back that they were too blunt and so direct to the point that their feedback had been described as verging on brutal and bullying. In our discussion they shared they were confused because they had always believed it is better to be “brutally honest and candid”. They saw brutal honesty and being candid in their communication as one and the same thing – they are not.

Being candid is being open, factual, honest, sincere, and simple in your communication so that issues are not disguised, subject to innuendo, or based on assumption. The trick is being able to identify when you are not being candid in your communication. Here are some pointers: you are not being candid when:

  • In your communication you finger point, are disrespectful, hurt feelings, and demotivate others;
  • Your communication hinders working towards a resolution;
  • You generalise and “beat around the bush” rather than be specific;
  • Your response is emotional rather than rational so your assessment of the situation is far from objective;
  • You dilute the message to protect the person or situation.

Today because of the pace at which organisations move and change occurs we need to encourage people at every level to speak candidly. Think about times when someone has spoken to you with candour, it does shock or surprise you momentarily but how often did it provide you with the insight you needed to address the situation to the satisfaction of all people involved.

Here are some tips that can be applied if you want to have a candid conversation.

  • Get clear in your own mind “why” you need to have the conversation – be clear on the outcome as this will help you centre the conversation;
  • Consider what is driving the behaviours – yours and theirs;
  • Don’t exaggerate the situation;
  • Avoid shooting the messenger – the only messenger that should be shot is the one that arrives too late or fails to deliver the message;
  • Don’t assume the worst as you are more likely to come across as negative. Instead acknowledge people’s actions and behaviour come from the best of intentions and that on this occasion something has been lost in the translation that needs adjusting;
  • Check and test any assumptions you might be making;
  • Tell the truth with compassion.

For many people being able to speak with candour is challenging because of the limitations they place on themselves, the organisation places on them, or both. Create a culture that values candour – the first step begins with a willing speaker and willing listener.


Viventé Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.