Why Difficult Conversations Require a Balance of Honesty AND Kindness

got balance

The strongest relationships weather storms. They deal with conflict, disagreement. They aren’t always pretty, but they are always real.

Healthy conversations are the same. Truly healthy conversations are based on honesty AND kindness, not one or the other.  Like a chair with a missing leg, conversations that don’t value both characteristics are bound to collapse at some point. Healthy conversations cannot exist without the weaving of both honesty and kindness into them.

With only kindness, our conversations  avoid issues.  Anything that might cause pain, discomfort, hurt feelings, anger or conflict will be skipped in an effort to be kind above all else.

The moment kindness trumps truth, we pay a price. Every bit of information that appears “not nice” gets sugar-coated, or toned down, or simply censored altogether.  Such watered-down communications are inauthentic, too worried about sensitivities. Like the famous line in the movie, Top Gun, we “can’t handle the truth!” Waving the flag of kindness, we gloss over  anything that might cause the smallest blip.

But everyone pays a price when the hard truth is avoided. Communication floats over the surface. It avoids. Conversations based only on kindness are weak, filtered, and rarely very truthful, entirely avoiding what matters most.

The reverse is also true. Honest conversations that lack kindness are just as unbalanced and ineffective, but to the other extreme.

Conversations that value ONLY honesty have the potential to be brutal, hurtful and insensitive to feelings.  In my head I still hear my dad bellowing, “Well, I have to be honest!” as license to voice his opinions thoughtlessly as if honesty made it ok. It didn’t. It always hurt.

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Honesty and kindness need to be married into conversation to create healthy communications.

Together, the pair is powerful.  By speaking the truth we express what matters, what’s real. We get to issues. We have the opportunity to work through the awkwardness, the difficulty and come to understanding.

It isn’t always pretty or comfy but delivering communications with kindness AND honesty means we will not sidestep an issue. We will not ignore the truth simply because it might be upsetting.

What we will do, however, is opt to speak truthfully AND graciously with awareness.  Awareness of how it might sound and feel.  We’ll speak our words truthfully AND with thought.

By being honest, we face challenges and gain understanding.

By being kind, we deliver our communications thoughtfully and with awareness.

Combining the two qualities in the office and at home that takes practice and commitment. It takes courage to always speak the truth, knowing it might be difficult to hear.  Knowing it will feel great when we’re through the conversation encourages us to speak up. It’s a great motivator.

Do you struggle more with the “being honest” part of healthy conversations? Or is your challenge being sensitive and aware of others’ feelings?  Not sure? Just ask someone close to you. I promise, they’ll know and if you ask, they’ll tell you. Let me know you’re out there, tell me what you think. Agree or disagree?