How to Be Blunt

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A little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down, says an old axiom. This is often good advice; however, sometimes the best way to say something is to just get it out, to be blunt. Sugar coating can blur the message and compromise communication, whereas frank, straightforward words reduce misunderstandings. Nevertheless, it is important to prepare yourself for what you want to say, and how you want to say it.

Prepare yourself for delivering a blunt message. Think about what you want to say and why. Choose the time and place. Words of correction are often best delivered in private, to prevent the recipient of your message from becoming emotional and missing your point. Or, as business coach and Executive Strategies president Susan B. Wilson points out in "5 Tips for Correcting Behavior Issues in Employees" on the American Management Association website, if you correct an employee in the presence of others, the employee may become embarrassed, angry or humiliated, harming your relationship and the employee's performance. Alan Goldman, Ph.D., calls public humiliation poison and suggests a private venue for potentially embarrassing correction. In his article "Toxic Leaders Publicly Humiliate and Poison Employees," published in "Psychology Today," Goldman recommends that you soften a reprimand by situating it within a dialogue that also points out positive behavior.

Temper your blunt words with your nonverbal communication. Hard to fake, according to "Nonverbal Communication" on, nonverbal communication conveys your true meaning and intentions. Practice stress management to avoid harshness in your tone of voice or body language. Before you deliver a blunt message, take time out, if necessary, to calm down. Eye contact, body position, posture and gestures, along with tone of voice and intensity let the listener know how you really feel, in spite of the words you use.

Use "I" statements or statements of fact, instead of beginning a blunt sentence with "you." The statement, "You didn't stack the boxes correctly," sounds accusatory; whereas, "The boxes must be stacked no more than three high," is informative. "I don't want to eat at XYZ restaurant tonight," is blunt, but doesn't offend the way, "You always want to go to XYZ ... " might offend. When blunt statements are used to convey information instead of sarcasm or criticism, they save time and feelings. Blunt can be a good thing.