How to Take a Direct Approach without Disrespect

Last month I taught another webinar through the American Staffing Association on dealing with difficult people. Many times the Q&A is my favorite part of teaching, and I received so many great questions from webinar attendees at the conclusion of the session.

One question I followed up on from a webinar attendee was, “How do I make sure a direct approach doesn’t come across as rude?”

I appreciate it when others take a direct approach, but I know not everyone is as receptive to getting straight to the point. There are entire cultures that find a direct approach as offensive or even rude. So, how can we quickly drill down to the issue while still coming across as “for” our colleague?

Here are a few tips:

  • First, listen well. Regardless of how spot on your feedback may be, if you haven’t taken time to really listen to the other person, that person will probably have a difficult time listening to you.
  • After listening, ask politely for permission to be honest with them. “I’d like to offer some advice. Would you mind hearing my thoughts on that?” or “May I have permission to coach you on a certain topic?”
  • Make sure your intentions and mindset are helpful. You can’t help someone if you aren’t honest, BUT our directness doesn’t have to be harsh or stern. Feedback should always be given with love and care.
  • In return, let your listener know that you give them permission to also give you feedback. Then receive that feedback with a simple thank you.

It’s hard to hear direct feedback on something we’ve done poorly. It’s feels like we’ve failed, and no one likes to fail. However, when we listen well, ask permission to share our honest thoughts, and then share those thoughts with love and care, it allows the listener to be open to hear what we need to say.