I was raised in a loving and supportive family and our conversations were always high on tactfulness. We made sure there was lots of kindness and empathy when we dealt with each other. However, we weren’t as high on the truth side of things. It’s not that we were dishonest, but we held back sharing things that may have been hard for the other person to hear or would result in an uncomfortable conversation because we didn’t want to hurt one another’s feelings or be disrespectful. Sadly, when I look back, I think we missed out on providing each other with the full value of our perspective and push-back.
I have also worked with a lot of leaders that pride themselves on being “truth-tellers.” They tell me that they “call it like they see it” and “say it like it is.” Yet when I talk with members of their teams, it’s clear that they see things quite differently. They explain a team culture where everyone is “walking on eggshells,” waiting for the next time they get called out in public, embarrassed, or caught up in another unhealthy conflict.
The teams that I’ve worked with, and been a part of, that have been the most effective have all had exceptional communication skills. Team members had the courage to be truthful and candid with one another AND they had the courage to own the impact of their words, and as a result, embrace tactfulness and empathy. They’ve realized that in order to experience next-level teamwork, being truthful and being tactful is a package deal.
Reflect on your meetings and interactions this past season. Is your team experiencing all the benefits that come from communicating truthfully? At the same time, are you tapping into the benefits that come from communicating tactfully?
Take a look at the following graphic and assess which of the four quadrants your team is currently spending the most time in.
Whether you currently reside in quadrant one, two, three, or four, the ultimate objective is to shift towards quadrant four as much as possible. The good news is that every team has the ability to manage this tension in a healthy way. Through a shared understanding, some basic training, and a bit of determination, your team can become both clear and considerate in how you communicate with one another.