Productive Conflict: Be Open and Honest

We all know that honesty, transparency, and openness builds trust which thereby builds relationships. And in conflict situations, this is still true.

For some, being open and honest about their ideas, thoughts, and opinions comes naturally. For others, it’s like trying to uproot a 100-year-old cedar tree.

Openness and honesty makes you vulnerable.

It’s in those depths that connections are made. Imagine your boss asking your thoughts on a new policy your company wants to adopt. She gives nothing away on what she thinks, but is asking for your honest opinion.

You have three choices here:
1. Be completely open and honest.
2. Be half open and honest.
3. Give a non-committal answer that in no way reflects what you actually think.

The first one carries a lot of weight.

What if you were to tell her what you honestly think? How would she view you? What if she doesn’t agree with you? Will she ask follow up questions? What if word gets out and your peers disagree with you? What if something you said gets taken the wrong way? What if your answer stops you from getting that promotion you want? What if everyone begins to shun you? The questions go on. This is vulnerability, and for some, it’s too risky.

Options two and three are much safer.

Choosing number 2 allows you to gauge what your boss thinks. You can play down your real thoughts and only give out enough to answer her question without hurting yourself too badly. Option 3 is super safe. You don’t rock the boat, and at the end of the conversation, you haven’t moved down the workplace social ladder. Crisis averted.

But is it really?

By offering your boss option 3, you’ve given her nothing. What happens when input is needed next time? Will they ask you? Or will they converse with someone else, leaving you out of any decisions that need made? Soon, you’re completely overlooked, including for that promotion you wanted.

Okay, so option 2 is safe, right?

You gave them something; it just wasn’t everything. Option 2 is like asking your child to pick up their room. They do it…sort of. When you follow up on them, though, you see clothes in the closet, but not hung up. Bedding on their bed, but the bed isn’t made. Books off the floor, but jammed into the bookcase. Technically, yes, they picked up their stuff, but it doesn’t look good. Technically, yes, you gave your boss an answer, but without any passion and commitment to back it up.

Being open and honest is your best choice.

It shows you’re passionate, committed, confident, and unafraid to speak up. And when a committee is formed to make changes to the policy, you’ll be included.

Side note: being open and honest isn’t a green light to be impolite or rude. It’s about letting your thoughts and opinions be heard while respecting those around you.

Being open and honest may be more natural for those with the D style and i style than for those with the S style and C style.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

This is the 15th post in an 18-part series discussing positive conflict behaviors. Effective leaders encourage productive conflict and discourage unproductive conflict. Follow along as we explore the positive impact of these behaviors.

Part 1: Finding the Root of the Problem
Part 2: Apologize
Part 3: Listen to Differing Perspectives
Part 4: Bring in a Neutral Perspective
Part 5: Separate Emotion from Fact
Part 6: Own Your Contributions
Part 7: Offer Reassurance
Part 8: Find a Compromise
Part 9: Give Others Time and Space
Part 10: Acknowledge the Feelings of Others
Part 11: Revisit Unresolved Issues
Part 12: Pause & Reflect
Part 13: Be Flexible
Part 14: Communicate Respectfully

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