About Straight Talk®
Straight Talk® focuses on four styles of communicating. Research has shown that people have four different ways of seeing the world and thus four different ways of communicating and relating. Each style has its own approach to leadership, problem solving, decision making, management, and conflict resolution. Armed with an understanding of these styles, people can improve their interactions very quickly.
Straight Talk® for Organizations
Straight Talk® is designed to help anyone who wishes to become a competent communicator. It is not like most communication books, as it is specifically designed for people in organizations and businesses, but the tools presented are just as valid at home as they are at work.
Consultants are usually hired to help organizations revolutionize their way of doing business. Sometimes the solutions are readily apparent: a lack of management strategy; a failure to be clear about job functions; a need to share information among employees. As outsiders, consultants can ask the questions that people don’t ask: Why is this done this way? What is your reasoning? Did you consider other options? As outsiders, their job is to challenge the conventional wisdom.
And as outsiders, it’s often easier to do so.
Consultants diagnose and treat these specific problems to the best of their ability. But organizations shouldn’t depend on outsiders to ask challenging questions. Insiders should be able to ask those questions, too.
I have spent much of my career searching out the tools to help people engage in this kind of straight talk — tools that help bridge differences in style, tools to mediate conflict, tools to help people understand one another, tools that enable change. The Communication Styles Profile forms the foundation of the tools designed to help anyone in an organization become a skilled, competent communicator.
Where we’ve succeeded in introducing the tools of straight talk, we’ve seen surprising results. Management teams become more adept at thinking and managing in innovative ways. Companies become more skilled in managing difficult projects. One organization experienced a 20 percent increase in profits the year after we introduced these tools — and its managers attributed the increase entirely to their new way of working together.
If straight talk were easy, there’d be no need to write a book about it. But straight talk is hard. Most people are lazy communicators even in the simplest situations — managing their time, laying out a task, setting goals. People communicate in clumsy ways because it’s easier than communicating expertly.
If we communicate ineffectively in normal situations, imagine how we behave in a challenging situation. Imagine what we do when the topic is “Where is my business going?” or “What is happening to our industry?” In those situations, we’re very likely to respond in ways that are exactly contrary to what is needed. In the situations where straight talk is most needed, it is most likely to be elusive.
Think of the costs of inexpert communication. Think of the opportunities, misdirected resources, and underutilized human capital. One CEO totaled up the bill for his organization’s ineffectiveness and put it at 15 percent of total revenues. In his case, that means $45 million in lost revenues each year because his company didn’t communicate about key issues head on.
As you start to learn the tools and principles of straight talk, discuss them with your colleagues. Try them out in your meetings. Above all, trust these tools to work for you. This may mean changing your way or thinking. But at the heart of straight talk lies a willingness to accept that change is the only thing we can count on.
The spirit of Straight Talk is embodied, oddly enough, in a sign I once saw hanging in the customer service office at the Amtrak station in Los Angeles:
A Short Course in Productive Communication
The six most important words: “I admit I made a mistake.”
The five most important words: “You did a good job.”
The four most important words: “What is your opinion?”
The three most important words: “If you please.”
The two mots important words: “Thank you.”
The one most important word: “We.”
The least important word: “I”