Find the Right Level of Candor With This Quick Guide

People appreciate honesty and directness, but those things can just as easily backfire if you do it incorrectly.

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By Jeff Boss

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's no fun being left in the dark about a hot topic or issue only to be blindsided by the truth.

People appreciate candor. They want to know how they're doing and where they stand relative to their peers, their superior's expectations and performance standards.

Candor paves the way for creativity, which turns into innovation. Without candor, a company cannot respond to market changes, customer needs or internal culture challenges simply because they lack the relevant, timely and valid information necessary to make accurate decisions.

Related: Why Honesty and Integrity Really Do Matter

However, candor can also be agony that snowballs into torture if expressed incorrectly.

There is a right way and a wrong way to be candid with people, and unfortunately, we only learn the right way after dealing the wrong way. (I speak from personal experience on this one. How's that for candor?)

How do you know when your candor is about to turn toxic? Take a look at the following questions and see the guide below to measuring your level of candor corruption:

Will the information I share be a surprise?

Hopefully not. If it is, then the next question becomes, "why?" Why did you wait so long to share the truth? People who avoid conflict do so for a number of reasons, whether it be a lack of trust or just not wanting to spend the next three hours in a conversation, according to Patrick Lencioni, organizational health consultant and author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Are you a giver, taker or shaker?

People who only give feedback are toxic because they're unwilling to hear others' feedback about themselves. Those who only take feedback and avoid giving it work from a place of fear -- of conflict, to be specific -- while the shakers are ready to shake things up and down the line.

Is the relationship reliable?

This questions picks at the foundation of any relationship, and that's trust. Relationships that are less than reliable hold "offline" conversations and avoid hot-topic agendas because there's fear that the message will be ill-received.

Related: Gary Vaynerchuk: To Be Authentic, Be Consistent

Is my candor emotionally driven or fact based?

If it's emotion, then be aware that emotions change (this is why we often wonder, "Why did I say that? That was so stupid of me!"). Yes, it happens, but the more that you can position yourself into a dialogue that cites facts and behaviors over opinion and speculation, the better.

Ready for the guide?

Here it is: If you answered "yes" to any of the above, your candor is toxic (how's that for a simplified guide?). That's the bad news. The good news is there are easy ways to positively inject candor into your culture. Here are three of them:

Speak to the positive.

Avoid using contractions -- such as words that end in "n't," including "don't," "wouldn't" or "can't." Doing so will force your brain to look for the positive in everything rather than settling for the negative.

Think "we," not "me."

There's nothing worse than information hoarders. You know, people who say nothing and then once the boss enters the room suddenly get stung by the good idea fairy? Sharing information breeds trust and transparency and provides the information people need to be their best.

Model it.

Candor must be expressed from the top if it is to permeate a team or a culture. People must know what healthy candor looks like in order to model it, not to mention know that it is accepted.

How do you promote candor? It's not easy being the bad guy. It warrants mental and emotional courage to go against the grain and be the person others love to hate. But then again, what will happen if you don't?

Related: 5 Steps to Becoming an Authentic Leader

Jeff Boss

Leadership Team Coach, Author, Speaker

Jeff Boss is the author of two books, team leadership coach and former 13-year Navy SEAL where his top awards included four Bronze Stars with valor and two Purple Hearts. Visit him online at

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