Kellie is one of my favorite all-time coworkers. She ALWAYS does what she says she’ll do, when she says she’ll do it, and does it SO WELL. She’s smart, thoughtful, innovative and creative, and always focuses on doing the right thing … which makes her the perfect fit for her position as Ethics Specialist in our company. She’ll also tell you she’s an ‘avid reader, mother of five, doting grandmother of five, adventure seeker, problem solver’ who enjoys traveling, gardening and ‘tinkering with various home projects with her husband.’ Kellie has Paralegal and English (creative writing emphasis) degrees, and spent many happy years as an English teacher, instilling a love of writing in middle schoolers.
Welcome to my second guest blog … from Kellie K! Hope you enjoy it as much as me!
Choose your words wisely…
Have you ever heard someone brag about being brutally honest? When did brutality become something to be proud of? Truth and honesty, yes. But brutality? We know the truth can hurt – like telling your spouse you don’t like their new haircut, telling a coworker you don’t like their idea or agree with their opinion, or telling a subordinate they need to improve their performance. Yes, it will hurt, but it doesn’t have to be destructive!
Some people do like to hear it straight – hit me with your best shot, I can take it! (No, don’t. I’m not one of those people!)
Some would prefer you flutter around the topic like a butterfly and never really land on the issue. The rest of us prefer, well, just honesty. Honesty without brutality, and with enough details that we can make changes that will improve our looks … Excuse me, but you have a booger hanging out of your nose. Here’s a tissue. Or change our behavior … Excuse me, but there are typos in your article. Please proofread it again.
Let’s change the trend from brutal honesty to constructive honesty. Honesty delivered in a manner that contributes to our growth and learning.
It’s easy to be brutally honest. You don’t have to think about word choice. Nor do you have to consider the impact of your words. Constructive honesty takes a little more effort – you have to choose your words wisely and consider their impact on others. You also have to think about what you want to achieve or what you want them to achieve, and measure the two things carefully. Is there something to be gained, really?
Now let’s talk politics … better yet, let’s not. It’s right up there with religion on what not to talk about with anyone you must interact with on a regular basis (coworkers and family) – mostly due to the strong convictions people carry on those topics.
But it’s also due to people not knowing the difference between what they have the right to do, and what is right to do. Too often, we hold firmly to, I have the right to express my thoughts and opinions, and I have the right to disagree with your opinions. I have the right to speak the ‘truth’! We hold so firmly to those rights, we forget we share them with others. And we may lose sight of the fact that everyone has their own set of truths.
Think of your rights as a huge soap bubble. You can let it float casually along, sharing it with others. Or you can try to hold onto it for yourself – in which case, it will likely burst and leave you (and those around you) sliding around in a sticky mess, with a bad taste in your mouth.
Think about Potter Stewart’s quote the next time you need to have a difficult but truthful conversation with someone, or the next time you’re sharing your opinions. We have the right to use harsh words, but is it the right thing to do – or is there a better way?
“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.”
Potter Stewart, Associate Justice
US Supreme Court