I had been working with Executive Steve for about a month and he was having a difficult time realizing how his behaviors and emotions were keeping him from progressing in his career and personal life. (How his wife lived with him was beyond me!) The company he worked for was paying me big dollars to help him be a weeeeee bit more self-reflective and I was failing miserably.
I was getting frustrated because I knew a few small changes would make a huge difference in his future career and his current personal life. So, in frustration, I asked: “Can I hurt your feelings?”
In four short, brutally honest sentences I spelled out his problems and pointed out that everyone was aware of them but him, going so far as to tell him I didn’t even like him and I like everyone! But Executive Steve didn’t want to hear it.
People don’t like to be told brutally honest things. It isn’t something that we experience enough in our lives; we aren’t brutally honest with people and they aren’t brutally honest with us. Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why; what kind of world would we live in if people were brutally honest all the time? It would be brutal!
A quick shopping trip to Costco; however, offered a different perspective. While my daughter who is in college went on a Costco rampage (she knew I was paying so she was stocking up!) I found myself in the electronics section right next to the display of a new hair removal gadget. A salesman was pushing the product and taking a less than subtle approach with his potential customers. Here were some of the conversations:
Salesman: “Ma’am would you like to try our new hair removal product?”
Woman: “No thanks!” (as she begins walking away)
Salesman: “The hair on your upper lip is telling me a different story.”
Woman: “Did you just say what I think you said?”
Salesman: “Just being honest! I can help solve that problem.”
She bought one.
I can’t help myself; let me give you another example from my new favorite salesperson:
Salesman: “Sir, you would like to try our new hair removal product?”
Man: No response, just walks by
Salesman: “I can see the hair coming out of the back of your shirt, Mother’s day is around the corner, give her the gift of not having to look at that.”
Me: Laughing hysterically behind the T.V.’s thinking this has to be a prank television show. (It wasn’t!)
So here is how the brutally honest approach went down in the local Costco:
Salesman invites customer to try new hair removal product. Customer says no (or ignores salesman). Salesman makes a TRUE comment about the customer and the customer is initially offended. However, more than ½ the time, the customer turns around immediately to discuss the product or comes back after cogitating on it for a minute and realizing the brutally honest comment was TRUE and they may actually need the product.
It was brilliant and brutally honest; the customers didn’t want to be told of their hairy misfortune, but the salesman’s brutal honesty helped them see the error of their ways and embark on a less hairy journey. Although it may sting at first, brutal honesty is sometimes the best pathway and key to growth as it is the first step to stopping old bad habits and creating new effective ones.
I am brutally honest when I work with individuals, teams, and corporations. Initially, it stings, but it helps flush out real problems and issues, leading to long-term success.
Maybe it is time to give the gift of brutal honesty, but proceed with caution—you never know what you may get back in return.