3 Ways to Communicate Truth Without Compromising Connection

As leaders, we should be able to communicate intention and truth with clarity while still maintaining connection with people. Life is full of hard conversations and the approach we choose can make the critical difference between disarming someone or disconnecting from them. Our goal should always be to disarm the defenses and open up the heart.

And I'll just take a moment to be completely transparent and say, I continue to fail at this regularly. It takes self-awareness, intentional effort, and humility to communicate this way, and it’s just downright hard sometimes. However, I truly believe that it is a mark of a strong and effective leader. So, I am committed to working at it until it becomes as second nature as humanly possible.

By watching my mentors and reading from experienced leaders, I’ve picked up on three very practical approaches that have helped me tremendously in this area:

1. Flip the script on negative language.

Use the word no as little as possible and find replacements for words like can’t, won’t, doesn’t, not, and never. There’s almost always a way to rephrase dissents to be more intelligent and more gracious. Secondly, if disappointing news has to be delivered, soften the blow by offering alternatives instead of solely focusing on the issue at hand. Responding this way will usually require a larger investment of time and emotional engagement, but keeping the conversation positive will keep the relationship fruitful.

2. Find something in what the other person has said that you can agree with.

When you’re ready to respond, start by highlighting the points you agree with them on. This will keep them connected and their heart open to receive, which will be critical when you have to move on to the tougher parts of the conversation.

3. Don’t just talk to people, appeal to them.

We never want to be so soft to the point of circumventing the truth, but we also don't want to be thoughtlessly brazen for truth’s sake. Start with sincere conviction and then layer in carefully chosen words with sensitivity and tact. This will go much further in getting the point across. Our job as leaders is not to bulldoze people with dos and don’ts, it’s to inspire people toward a belief in the mission. If we can get the buy-in, we'll begin to see people taking ownership of the mission with initiative and passion.

This is so much easier said than done, but the caveat to all of this is that we have to actually be sincere in these approaches. We have to genuinely care about the heart first before we address facts or behavior. And if you think this is coming from someone who’s more sentimentally inclined than logically inclined, you’d be wrong. It’s taken me years to finally recognize the value in prizing the heart of a person over my own principles of reason, but I’ve seen the fruit and the transformation it undoubtedly produces in relationships.

Besides, when we get to the end of it all, it will be relationships that mattered much more than our cherished ideals.