This discussion may be slightly controversial, but we do live in the United States of America where we have Freedom of Speech, am I correct?
So why is it that we have to be so careful about what we say and how we say it? It is so important that we do not offend anyone and disengage them. Especially for people in a leadership role, one word could change the entire meaning of the conversation. No matter male, female, baby boomers or millennials, this is a frustration that everyone experiences today.

So what, get over it, live with it? That is really what is being told to you. Let’s make it easier to live with, become a little less controversial and get your true intention across. Whether it is your right or not can be secondary to whether you are being effective in communicating a message or motivating to a common goal. It becomes a distraction in that your message is not heard, and the controversy then becomes the focus. Here are a few tips that can help you.

1. Slang words will get you in trouble. There are TOO many interpretation that can be made. It is to everyone’s benefit that the words you chose are not open-ended.

2. How you say it can make it acceptable or not. So it may not be what you say, but how you said it. Make sure you are using the intended tone, as well as pay attention to what you emphasize – whether in the beginning or ending of your statement. That can change how the receiver interprets the meaning.

3. Gossip and opinions are different. Stay away from gossip. Remember if you gossip, think what they are saying behind your back! Another way to look at it: you are advertising to people that you could be gossiping about them to others.

4. Talk to the face not the back. You may want to express your opinion and feel you have a right; then stand up, don’t hide behind someone. If it is your opinion, own it. When a person shy away, turning around and saying something under their breath; it then stops being your opinion and becomes an attack. Freedom to express your opinion does not mean attacking others’ beliefs, personalities, or position; it just means this is what you believe in and you are sharing that respectfully with others.

5. You must be willing to listen to others’ beliefs if you want to express yours. This means truly listening to them, not pretending nor making negative comments afterwards. Recognize that if you have an opinion, guess what? Others will too!

We live in a great country in which we should be able to express ourselves. How we choose to express ourselves will determine the outcome of the conversation. We should all respect each other’s opinions.

What is your opinion?

Written by Carey G MacConnell
Author of Leadership Code of Conduct; Culture Change Made Simple
Managing Partner of Voyager Leadership Training LLC