WATCH: How Do People Interpret Your Communication?

In this episode, I’d like to talk about ‘The Paradox of Respectful Candor’. Which is the tendency to be straightforward and respectful in the manner that we communicate. It’s one of the 12 behavioural paradoxes developed by Dr. Dan Harrison. And, if we think of a paradox as two statements which seem to be contradictory but are in fact both true. We can think of a behavioural paradox as two traits, which seem to be contradictory, but in fact when they come together are synergistic.



So, if we look at ‘The Paradox of Respectful Candor’, we’ve got the trait of being ‘Frank’. Which is the tendency to be straightforward, and direct to the point.


And, the trait of being ‘Diplomatic’. Which is the tendency to be respectful, and thoughtful when we speak to others, and respectful of their feelings. Now, if we’re very ‘Frank’ and low in ‘Diplomacy’, we can come across as being very clear in articulating what it is that we want, what we mean.


People know where we stand. However, it can lead to us becoming seen as being ‘Blunt’. As in too ‘Frank’, which means that a lot of people will respond defensively. And it can in fact lead to people being feeling offended, responding defensively, and it can lead to employee turnover. Whereas, if we’re very ‘Diplomatic’ but low on ‘Frankness’. We can actually create a good listening, harmonious relationships.


However, we may come across as being ‘Evasive’. People don’t know exactly what it is that we mean. And, therefore may neglect the development and growth of others. So, that can actually also create underperformance and a lack of the required standards being met. So, I’d like you to think about, where are you? And what are your tendencies with this paradox? Do you have a tendency towards ‘Diplomacy’? Or a tendency towards ‘Frankness’? Because, they both have unintended consequences.

Forthright Diplomacy

And, we really also need to look at the team that you’re in and how you can create more ‘Forthright Diplomacy’, by being balanced. And, that can lead to more constructive resolution of issues. Because, things that need to be said, get said, but they’re done in a constructive and respectful way, that everybody feels heard. And, everybody knows exactly what it is they need to do next.

So, when it comes to ‘The Paradox of Respectful Candor’, remember, stay curious!

With best regards,

David Klaasen

Talent4Performance help business leaders clarify complexity. We inspire people and drive continuous performance improvement, so they can convert thinking into action and results.

©David Klaasen – 2022