Real Candor May Require a Warning

Recently, we spent time observing a leader who said to his audiences on several occasions: “Let me be honest with you.” He then proceeded to be direct and frank. 

The simple expression of, “I’ll be honest with you,” or the question, “Can I be honest with you?” is not meant to suggest the leader is normally less candid, or that peers are less forthright. Instead, the expression is a forewarning. 

Telling people you are going to be honest with them prepares them for candor and allows them to brace themselves for a truth the leader wants to share openly. This advanced notice that something potent is headed straight for you makes a candid remark less off-putting, but powerful, nonetheless. 

Candor is in increasingly short supply among leaders everywhere, so audiences are not used to it and thus are less prepared to hear it than ever before. So, the next time you choose to be radically candid, tell people what’s coming. You — and they — will be better for it.