How Being Blunt Can Hurt Your Personal Life

Blunt, undiplomatic communication can be a real problem. In fact, it can’t really be called communication because it closes the door to further discussion. Here, Lisa B. Marshall, aka The Public Speaker, gives some helpful advice for improvement in both business and personal communication.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #343

In Are You Too Blunt? I went over some ways to overcome an abrasive personality in the workplace. But being too blunt can also wreak havoc in your personal life too. I remember a friend from work trying to explain to me that I didn't need to be so direct. I distinctly remember him telling me:  Lisa, communication is like football. You don't have to always run with the ball down the middle. Sometimes it helps to fake right, then fake left, or drop back and pass. There are many ways to get the ball to the goal line and you should probably start to learn a few more strategies.  

The analogy stuck with me. Of course the feedback stung, and at the time I wasn't even sure that I agreed with it entirely. I really thought the best and only way to communicate was straight down the middle—no matter how many people I pushed out of the way. But, now twenty plus years later, as a communication professional, I realize that what he was talking about was the importance of being able to flex your style and speak with tact and diplomacy. In essence, he was telling me to be honest, but not brutally honest. Why?

Because direct, brutal honestly has a cost—particularly in your personal life (but also at work).  

In fact, two listeners recently contacted me about their problems, looking for more advice. One man told me that he was recently in divorce court. What he thought was accurate and honest communication came off as arrogant. So because of his communication, the judge hit him with a massive legal bill. He admitted in his email that his blunt communication style has hurt him in business, and now it has hurt him personally and financially.

Then just a few days later a woman contacted me, telling me she is having trouble communicating with her husband (and others). She is a nice person, she says, but when she’s speaking honestly and to the point, she ends up offending others. She also has a hard time understanding why people don’t see things her way, and she gets angry that they don’t.

Here's how I responded:

Being a diplomatic communicator takes practice for most people, but (as these examples show) it is a crucial skill to learn. How we communicate—confidently (or not), positively (or not), persuasively (or not), with tact (or not)—determines how effective we are at meeting our personal and professional goals.

The simple truth is this... people who communicate better get promoted faster. People who communicate better get hired. People who communicate better get the things they want. In fact, I would argue that effective communication skills are the most important skills for personal (and professional) success. 

That's why I wrote my book, Smart Talk,  and included several chapters that would be helpful for someone who wants to improve their communication skills both at home and at work:

  From Archie Bunker to Mary Poppins: How to Speak with Tact and Grace

  Fearless Feedback: How to Deliver Restorative Feedback

  Ouch, That Hurts!  How to Accept Criticism

  We Have to Talk: How to have a Difficult Conversation

  Say Yes to Impress: How to Use Positive Language

  Magically Delicious:  How to Unleash Your Inner Charisma

(Of course there are other chapters, which round out the subject of better communication.) 

In the meantime, I have written on the topic if diplomacy frequently.  Although the information in the book is more detailed, certainly these posts are a great place to start (and you could also buy my book).   

What Is Business Diplomacy

Communicate Better with Different Types of People

How to Deal with People More Effectively

How to Be More Diplomatic

Are You an Abrasive Communicator?

Effective and Authentic Communication

This particular communication issue benefits from the help of a mentor or coach. You may want to look to your professional network for your first coach/mentor. Who might be able to help you identify some of your communication behaviors that are leading to negative impressions? Who can help you with this important issue?

A place outside of your professional network to find help might be a senior member of a Toastmasters club. There are dedicated members who have been in Toastmasters for many years and enjoy mentoring professionals through communication issues. Of course, they are not paid professionals, but certainly these are people who would be able to at least steer you in the right direction and provide objective feedback.  

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this particular concern is generally best addressed with the help of a credentialed communication coach. (And although I do offer private one-on-one coaching in this area, because of my schedule I only offer this type of coaching on a very limited basis.) 

I sincerely hope this helps you get started in the right direction. No matter who you work with, investing in your professional development, particularly in this area, will be worth it. 

This is Lisa B. Marshall, moving you from mediocre to memorable, from information to influence, and from worker to leader! I invite you to read my best-selling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview, listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk, and invest in your professional development via my online courses Powerful PresenterExpert Presenter, or Influence: Maximize Your Impact.   

As always, your success is my business!  

About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.