How freelancers can be direct and why it pays

It’s important to be able to be direct.There are times when it’s crucial to be direct. There you are, I’m being direct with you. It’s got your attention, you know what I’m saying and it’s a key piece to being a clear, confident communicator, writes Kay White (pictured), founder of mentoring firm Way Forward Solutions.

Direct, not rude

Before I explain why it can really pay to be direct, let’s clear something up: being direct is very different from being rude.That’s the key.

So many people struggle with saying what has to be said.They ‘beat about the bush,’ as we say, chatting about everything else but what they actually want to say. We can feel they’re struggling, they can, and the longer it goes on - the harder it is for them to say what has to be said.

If you think about it, more often than not, when someone’s direct with you, it’s actually a relief. You know and understand what they’re saying; you’re able to decide whether to take the information or their opinion on board and you can keep moving.

The struggle with being direct

I believe the struggle with being direct is two-fold. Firstly it stems from, ultimately, fear. It’s a primal fear of rejection at the root of being unable to be direct. Putting an opinion or instruction out and either hurting someone’s feelings or being seen to be ‘wrong’ is scary.

The struggle is both about fear and it’s about thinking that you have to please everyone all the time. The trick is to be able to respect the other person’s position or point of view and still be able to put across yours. (Oh and as we all know, we always fail if we try to please everyone. It’s impossible.)

Being direct – an example

Let’s take the following sentence: “This is going off-track. We have to get those expenses down otherwise all the budgets will be blown.” This two-sentence, direct opinion has given us everything we need to understand that something’s going wrong, there’s a direct action and the consequence is laid out for us if we leave things. We may not like the message, it may not be strictly true but at least we know what the other person is thinking.

You can imagine that these two sentences could have been put quite differently or much more indirectly and, in many meetings I’ve sat through, they unfortunately have!

Not being direct – an example

“Well, we’ve got to be careful to understand how exactly the numbers are all adding up at the moment. We’ve said it before and it’s time to say it again. If we aren’t very strict with ourselves and what we’re spending then the whole project could be jeopardised and then we might all be at risk of being told the budgets have been blown and then who knows where we’ll be.”

Phew, we got there. It was painful and ‘clunky’ or bumpy to get there and – if the speaker held our attention on to the end of it - the importance of the message has been severely diluted.

Can you see in the second version that as well as diluting the message, there’s also a real danger of both confusing and, crucially, boring your audience? Be it a listener, a reader, a crowd – your audience is the person or people you’re communicating with. You want their attention not for them to start tuning you out.

Easier on your brain

Personally, I resent spending my precious time listening to or being made to read something that’s rambling, jumbled and woolly. My brain has enough vying for attention and so does yours. It’s a relief when someone tells you what’s what.

Most people will love you for it. They actually want your opinion and they can then choose whether they take your opinion on, or not. Just as you can choose whether you take someone else’s opinion too.

The ‘Be Direct’ formula

There's a handy formula - and here it is for you - to make it easier (and more comfortable) for you to be direct:

Your opinion + Your reason + Offer a solution.

‘That colour is a bit drab on you’ (Opinion).
‘You look lovely in blue’ (Solution).
‘It brings out the colour of your eyes’ (Reason).

‘This is going off-track’ (Opinion).
‘We have to get those expenses down’ (Solution).
‘Otherwise all the budgets will be blown’ (Reason)

It’s less about the order you express yourself and more about having these three key components in place.Opinion + Reason + Solution = Usefully Direct.

Article, reproduced with permission, by Kay White, communication expert and mentor at . Kay shows professionals how to get quicker more profitable results and build stronger connections by becoming a more effective, influential and savvy communicator. Kay’s first book, The A to Z of Being Understood is a Number 1 Amazon Bestseller for Customer Service.



29th June 2011

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