In the category of cringeworthy moments, I rank hearing someone use the expression “brutally honest” near the top of the list. As in, “I’m going to be brutally honest” or “She was brutally honest” or “Can I be brutally honest?”
Whenever I hear someone preface their opinions with this absurdity, I immediately think: Why does what you intend to say necessitate brutality?
Brutality has no place in communication between caring team members. The nature of competition and complexities of team dynamics already include enough stress, it shouldn’t be exacerbated by having to break the truth with brutality.
As Oliver Wendell Holmes said: “Don’t flatter yourself that friendship authorizes you to say disagreeable things to your intimates. The nearer you come into relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become.”
Good teammates avoid brutality because they know it’s little more than repackaged cruelty. People aren’t generally receptive to, nor inspired by, cruelty. And they certainly aren’t endeared by it.
Some would argue that the function of a good teammate is to be the bearer of difficult truths. Sure, occasions exist where team members are called to be guardians of the teams’ culture. They must confront threatening behaviors by engaging in unpleasant conversations. But unpleasant conversations don’t need to include unpleasant words.
Consider the following sentences:
Sentence A: I think you’re lazy.
Sentence B: I believe you have it within you to work harder and do more.
Both statements essentially have the same meaning. Both statements are presented as facts, or at least truthful opinions. Yet the brutality of the former stings more so than the latter. Sentence A is far more likely to cause a resentful, defensive, or dismissive response.
The purpose of caring communication is to ignite change, which is why good teammates choose to speak in a way that inspires without inflaming. They calculate their tone and timing.
Brutality is sometimes inflicted in the spirit of efficiency. The speaker purports to eliminate tact in favor of delivering a simpler, blunter message. They’ll try to mask their forthcoming brutality by “cutting straight to the point.”
What is delivered, however, usually leads to an inefficient outcome. The speaker inevitably ends up having to navigate hurt feelings, battle bitterness, and repair damaged relationships. Nothing about any of those outcomes is efficient.
Individuals who choose to speak the brutal truth choose to be ego crushers. They suppress their teammates’ confidence through cruelty.
Good teammates don’t crush egos; they caress them. They use their words to inspire change. By steering clear of brutality, good teammates empower you to see what you can become.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.