Mind Virus E-Zine


Archive for November, 2012

Is It An Insult?

Monday, November 5th, 2012


As a father of three who can’t get enough of his children, let me tell you that I am very careful to watch what I say, and of course, how I say it. However, in business, it’s an entirely different arena. Prior to their relationship with my company, most of my clients had become accustomed to receiving what I refer to as “soft answers.”

A “soft answer” is when someone like me, a strategist, either sugarcoats something that a client needs to hear (usually something that the client DOES NOT want to hear) or avoids telling the client altogether. Unfortunately, most strategists and consultants have themselves, become softened to the point that they spend more time finding a way to put frosting on the bad news than actually delivering the bad news.

I enjoy being direct. To people who are inherently weak, direct comments are taken as insults. After all, it’s easier to be dismissive and call something an insult than it is to actually deal with the likelihood that the direct commentary probably hit the nail on the head.

An insult is to treat or speak to insolently or with contemptuous rudeness. Conversely, being direct is saying what you mean – straight to the point, with as few words as possible.

Our society has gone to great lengths to avoid what I refer to as direct language. A lot of advice that people NEED to hear, is given a workaround so as to hit one’s ear like a feather -rather than a hammer.


Direct: “That woman is obese.”

Indirect: “That woman has a large bone structure.”

If I were to tell a woman that she was obese, she would surely not walk away with a smile on her face – but the message would have impact (especially of other means of communicating that point had failed). If I tell a woman that she has a large bone structure, then I have essentially let her off the hook and reinforced bad behavior.

SIDE NOTE: To be quite frank, I really don’t care to tell someone that they are obese UNLESS they are asking me for my opinion. If someone asks me what I think, then before showering them with the truth, I will tell them that the truth comes packaged without any flowers or perfume (LOL).

As a strategist, my goal is to get from A to Z as fast and effectively as possible. Life is short and the clock never stops ticking. Therefore, the more time I waste with indirect language, the less time we have to correct a problem and move forward.

Not only do integrally weak individuals tend to take direct language as being insulting, but they also see directness as being unnecessarily HARSH. Now don’t get me wrong; tone and selection of verbiage are critical with respect to communication, but not all communication. And like everything else, there is a time and a place where focusing on tone and verbiage is more an adversary than an ally.

Another EXAMPLE:

An employee has just submitted the groundwork for a large project. A review of the submission reveals that it’s completely unacceptable.

Direct: “This is completely incorrect and is not usable. Here is why……”

Indirect: “I see where you were going, but I think we need to tweak a few things and get it back on course.” 

By looking at the Direct response, you can see that the response is “direct” to the point. Some may think it harsh. While there are “other” ways of saying what needs to be said, there are not better ways. The person who submitted the groundwork needs to understand, not only that the work is unacceptable, but the degree to which it is unacceptable, and WHY it is unacceptable.

The direct language may have been taken as having been “insulting,” but in the case where direct language was required, it is the recipient’s integral weakness that has lead to that interpretation.

The LESSON: Do not exhaust yourself working around direct language, if in fact, direct language is the right tool for the job.

Have A GREAT Day!

…Dr. Marc & The Mind Virus Team