Indirect communications. Here it’s called Minnesota Nice. It’s characterized by a smile and the right words, but possibly not the whole truth. There are probably terms for it elsewhere as well because indirect communications are common in every organization. Subjects are changed or avoided, anger masked and people circumvented, all to avoid a difficult situation. Sometimes it’s the benign desire to not step on toes or hurt feelings that will cause one to tell a little white lie, or avoid a difficult subject. Who really likes confrontation anyway? I know I don’t.
However, in business, indirect or passive aggressive communications can erode relationships, cause miscommunications and be downright destructive.
I’ve worked with clients most of my career, and I’m a people pleaser, so I struggle with direct communications too. When I first started managing client business I got this advice: deliver bad news quickly and directly, take responsibility and have a solution to recommend. It might be the single best piece of advice I’ve received. Here’s the twist. The advice I got was from a client! I had put off telling them there was a problem with their project until it delayed their project. I had told them things were on track hoping a solution would magically appear – I obsessed about it and it ruined my weekend – plus when I did fess up, it made them angrier. They didn’t have a chance to fix the issue in time to make the mail date.
You can make yourself miserable and turn an issue into a bigger deal by putting off the inevitable, or you can pull off the Band-Aid and deal with the situation. Either way it won’t go away. Direct communications can sting because not everything is easy in business and we don’t always agree. However, if it’s respectful, it will help build relationships.
So go out there and do business. Be nice to each other – truly nice – thankfully that’s the Minnesota way too, and please make your business communications direct.