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Barb was expressing the most brutally frank opinion which any of us had heard in years. After she finished, she explained, My mother always taught me to be honest and speak the truth. Stunned, none of us knew what to say. There was not much one could say after a performance like that.

Yes, most of us were brought up to be truthful, but truth doesnt have to be expressed with such stark realism. Both common courtesy and common sense dictate otherwise.

In the business world, as well as in personal life, some thoughts are better left unsaid. In either environment, the emphasis should be placed on maintaining at least the minimum working relationship which is necessary for us to achieve our objectives. Even though we might get some momentary pleasure from blowing them out of the water, very little is accomplished that way, and the possibility of a meeting of the minds may be compromised or eliminated altogether.

Whenever you are tempted to come out with harsh statements like Barbs, consider the following:

1. The truth does not have to be expressed in graphic detail. A few moderate words will convey the message without antagonizing your listener. Its acceptable to leave out portions of your opinion which might shock or demoralize, and you are not being dishonest in doing so. Those thoughts which serve no useful purpose are best kept to yourself; you shouldnt force people to listen to details which they dont need to know. Remember, you are not punishing your listener, you are trying to gain his or her understanding, agreement and commitment.

2. Suggestions can most effectively be conveyed by carefully chosen words. Phrases like thats a terrible idea, I dont care what you think, who do you think you are? you have to do this, that outfit looks terrible on you and the like just build up anger and resistance. Be tactful and positive; dont waste your efforts with negative messages which block out reception. As Sir Isaac Newton said, Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.

3. That old saying Think twice but speak once still has merit. Instead of blurting out your opinions and ideas, consider where your spoken words might lead you. Choose those words deliberately and express them in a normally conversational way.

4. Strong negative opinions expressed in public about others may hurt the person at which they are aimed, but usually they hurt you too. Its not worth it; your own reputation will suffer when you try to damage someone elses.

5. But if you feel you absolutely must express a strong negative opinion about something or someone, you dont always have to speak out to convey the proper message. A wink, nod or silence at the proper moment can be much more effective than mere words. Its what you dont say that often speaks the loudest.

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