Ever heard this phrase? “Sorry, just keeping it real.” It usually comes after a verbal punch in the gut. “TBH, that outfit does nothing for you … sorry, just keeping it real,” or, “That message you taught did nothing for me … just being honest.” Honesty is great … but can we try it with a bit of kindness as well?
We have a core value on our staff: We keep it real. But it’s easy for some of us to see this as a license for a full onslaught of criticism and then label it as “intended to be constructive.” I think we’ve all seen this in our families. One parent or sibling is overly honest under the guise of “just being real” while another is more calculated and quiet under the covering of “introverted.” How do we establish honesty with each other that builds the relationship rather than pushing it down or blowing it up?
5 Things to Keep it Real
1. Talk to the person rather than about the person
If you have a problem with someone or if you need information from someone or if you feel that someone is not being truthful, then go to THAT person. What we tend to do is go to everyone else and talk about what we think we know. What if we have misinformation? What if it gets back to them and you burn a bridge. If the person you are running down is part of a church … what if that person you are talking to decides to never return to church? Who does that help? In all of this, we have a clear process from Jesus: Go to the person first. A good way to think about this is, “I will only talk about problems or issues with those who can do something about it.” And if we are honest, most of the times we are sharing our “concerns” it’s with someone who has no ability to help the situation.
2. Share your heart before your opinion.
This may seem a bit tedious, but it matters. I’m amazed how many times I give my opinion on something in a field I know nothing about. How many times have we critiqued or criticized a team, a coach, a business, or a restaurant and yet we know nothing about what is really going on? Why did we criticize? Some of the time it’s petty, some of the time it’s selfish, but many times it’s because we care. So, let’s start with that.
Let’s say you have a child who is not responding to a teacher. Rather than just firing off an email about how the teacher is not doing a good job, maybe start with expressing your heart for the teacher to connect as well as possible with your child. Then, once you both have decided you agree on that, then begin to move into ideas that might be better for your child ... and for the teacher.
3. Start with a question rather than a declaration.
Beginning a difficult confrontation with, “You let me down,” or, “This was done poorly,” immediately puts the other party on the defense. What if you began with, “How can we make our situation even better?” “How do you feel that went?” “What would you do differently next time?” These questions create an attitude of collaboration rather than condemnation.
4. Say, “What do you think?”
Let’s be honest. Most of the time the only opinion we are interested in is our own and how quickly we can share it. One of the most valuable things we can give people is a chance to share their opinion. Speaking our mind can be helpful, but allowing others to do the same builds a bridge and helps the relationship’s productivity, rather than causing the relationship to just end.
5. Agree on next steps.
Ever hear someone who comes out of a tough meeting say, “It went great!” And then the other party tells you, “It was awful.” That’s probably because the two people left the conversation with opposite assumptions of what just happened and what is next. Taking time at the end of the reality–check conversation to determine what was decided, what we know, and what will happen next time goes a long way to clarify what just happened. “I’ll do a better job communicating next time,” or “You know I respect you, I just want us to communicate the best way possible. So next time I’ll talk to you first.” Taking care to say these can make the meeting end well for everyone involved.
Take a moment to share this post with your team and work through it together with these questions:
- Am I too quiet or too loud when it comes to conflict?
- What’s it like to work with me?
- What can we do as a team to keep it real?
Let’s keep it real … without keeping it rude.