Are You Brave Enough To Try This? Not Sure I Am…..

I am writing about something I am terrible at, and often petrified by. It’s uncomfortable. Yet this one simple habit makes for better leadership and relationships. It can also be disastrous, if mismanaged. I am determined to improve. It won’t be easy. Are you brave enough to join me? Truthfully?

All my life I have struggled with this one trait. Maybe it was the fear of hurting other people’s feelings? Or fear that somehow I’d look bad or inadequate if I did it. I’ve dodged it whenever I can, or approached it in a weird and circular fashion.

A good business or life coach does it well. The Brand Guy is advocating it. My sage counsel Rob is passionate about it. Our CEO is good at it. I have role models. But still I struggle to do this one thing consistently. And I bet you struggle too. Here it is:

Speak with candour.

Candour is after all, telling the truth without malice. Not that I tell the truth with malice. I just don’t always tell the truth. And yet it’s not that I tell lies. It’s just that I don’t always speak out, to state my beliefs, objections, etc, bravely and firmly.

I got thinking about this when I read The Brand Guy’s post about ‘speak up’, “Speak up is simply an honest expression of our thoughts and feelings,” he writes. Yet I read that with a sinking heart, for I realised I often don’t speak out- to express my views genuinely and fully. Some of those who know me will dispute this- “Come on Chris- that’s bullshit. You’re provocative and blunt, often.” That’s true- but often I am simply afraid to say what I feel. I don’t know why. I just am.

So – I am going to make a big effort to speak with candour this year- to tell the truth without malice: with clients, colleagues, friends, relatives. This will also include not misrepresenting things (ok- little lies on occasion….ok, ok- relax……giant whoppers every now and then) about myself to put myself in a better light, or to somehow cover my butt. I have tentatively begun the journey. So far so good. It actually is quite invigorating.


Am I being hypocritical in saying that, sometimes, it’s okay to tell a fib? For example, to sometimes manage your communication when you know that candour- truth without malice- is going to be counter-productive and will unnecessarily hurt feelings? I reckon that’s ok. And we all know those occasions…. So while I will try to ‘speak up’ in 2013, I’ll also try to do it sensible and sensitively.

Question For You

Do you speak with candour? Be candid now. If not, will you join me in trying to improve this year, even by 20%?

And a ‘thank you’ to Rob Irving for the ‘Candour’ idea- a story he attributes to Tim Hamilton Russell, a founder of JWT South Africa.

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15 Responses to Are You Brave Enough To Try This? Not Sure I Am…..

  1. Adrianne February 6, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    ah yes … candour. that’s what often gets me into trouble. but at the same time it’s also what gains me respect and trust. so yes Chris … i’ll keep it up – but mainly because I’m quite a crap liar!….

  2. Greg Savage February 6, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Strange. I have never found you wanting in this area in your communication with me over a long period of time

  3. Carl Sherriff February 6, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    Not all the time. And yes. Thanks Chris, nice one.

  4. Paul Spon-Smith February 6, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    Oh yes, I certainly do speak openly but to a fault…………..many of us “CANT HANDLE THE TRUTH”, unless of course its in the form of flattery, that always works.
    The only time I part from the truth a bit is when I go into my pathetic (English heritage) self depreciating humour (attention getting I know) – the result is that most listening really believe you… really are stupid………..hate that, they’re only telling the truth!.

  5. Pip February 6, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    This is definitely something I need to be better at doing, especially with colleagues. I think I often masquerade the truth via sarcasm so I need to be better at just being upfront.

  6. MC Hammer February 6, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    Ok, its time I said it, you have inspired me. In your gym gear,from behind, you are very unattractive. There its, out there. Ahh I feel better already.

  7. Renee February 6, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    Being in PR so long, I cannot tell the ‘cold hard truth’ without spinning it in some way. Is that bad? I like to think it is telling the truth in a way that is less likely to offend or upset.

    The same way I rarely make a direct promise – ‘I will endeavour to’, ‘if possible, I will’….comes from years of writing for politicians! But that way I never really lie.

  8. Simon February 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    Chris – please send my best to Rob

  9. Dasha Amrom February 7, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    Hi Chis.

    Great post – totally agree that it is sometimes so hard to speak the truth while balancing it so that not to unintentionally hurt someone. Thanks for the great post. I am currently writing a blog post about self-belief. Would be interested to hear your thoughts. Dasha

  10. Chris Savage February 7, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Thanks all for your comments. Appreciated. Chris

  11. gill Sutherland February 7, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Coincidentally we were all talking about this very thing over the weekend…conclusion : it takes maturity, courage, sensitivity with big dollops of EI to do this well both in our professional and personal lives.. So easy to come off as blunt, arrogant, rude, inflammatory, bitchy, etcetc when done badly

  12. David February 7, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    Very timely post, this is exactly the stuff which I too have been wrestling with recently. Having jumped from the white collar world to small business owner some years ago, I still struggle to have these candid conversations. Recently I had to tell one of my supervisors he was not up to it, I believe I had made a casting error. Not wanting to lose his technical skills was my concern, it was a difficult and much delayed conversation. Fortunately, he had to agree, his performance had been sub-standard. The conversation has not finished but at least it has begun.

    It occurred to me that life is really a series of difficult conversations (business and personal): The ones we do have. The ones we fail to have in a timely fashion and the ones we don’t have but should have had.

    Regrettably our education and training (historically anyway) does not seem to give us the skills or opportunities to help us with these candid conversations, which so many of us need to improve on.

    I to have vowed to get better, by just having these conversations when they need to be had.

    Good luck with yours.

  13. Craig Badings February 8, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    Chris. it’s a tough journey but take comfort in C.C. Lewis’ quote: “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

  14. Richard February 11, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Speaking candidly Chris ….


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