Oh, Honestly! Let’s Speak Our Minds

Originally published on February 28, 2018 by The Montrose Daily Press 

Editor’s note: Chelsea Rosty is out on maternity leave. This week’s column is brought to you by Sue Hansen.

Normally I would view spending a day on the couch sniffling, coughing and sneezing as the worst thing that could happen. On this particular occasion, I found it otherwise.

As I pounded through my box of Kleenex, I found myself watching an old rerun of “The Andy Griffith Show.” To the millennials out there: this show was ubiquitous to my generation as “The Simpsons” is to yours. Anyone who knows me knows I love Andy Griffith. I think his show is feel-good therapy when you don’t feel so good.

The episode I was watching was a storyline in which the choir in Mayberry was looking forward to an upcoming competition. Unfortunately, they found themselves without a tenor. As they were struggling with what to do about this musical dilemma, Barney Fife begins to lobby for the position. This would be fine under normal musical circumstances; however, Barney, you see, can’t sing. At all. Not a lick.

Here’s where it gets tricky.

There was a big discussion among the finely-tuned choir members about how to keep Barney from rehearsals and participating in the contest. This endeavor takes up at least 30 percent of the episode. The choir conspirators attempt numerous schemes to thwart Barney, most of which are sneaky, passive- aggressive and conniving.

Now granted, it’s “The Andy Griffith Show,” so their intention is to be righteous and not hurt Barney’s feelings: all the antics, all the gyrations, all the work-arounds — just so Barney’s feelings are not hurt simply because he can’t sing. Holy passive-aggressive, Batman!

Sound familiar? All too often similar scenarios play out in our lives. We tend to avoid these conversations because we believe we will either hurt others’ feelings, begin a conflict which will be uncomfortable, or we are just big chickens.

Sure, we all want to be nice (well, maybe not everyone), but what is the outcome when we avoid telling people the hard truth?

In Barney Fife’s case, withholding the truth left him unaware of his inadequacies in the voice department, which lured him into thinking that he actually can sing. I know what you are thinking: Barney must be a dolt, because he should know his own shortcomings. But do we? We’ve all worked with someone who believes they are better at something than they really are.

Even I know that, no matter what others say, I cannot sing well. Just ask Greg Fishering, who, famous for his karaoke serenades, will attest.

So, what’s the point of all this?

1. My message to Barney: Wake up and smell the roses. Learn to be self-aware.

How? Watch how others respond to you. Ask for honest feedback, and be strong enough to hear the good and bad — we are adults here.

Once you know the hard truth about something, you can deal with it. Do you really want coworkers, friends and family tiptoeing around you, allowing you to believe you are perfect? You aren’t an expert at every single thing, but don’t sweat it: no one is. Be honest with yourself, and be open to potentially humbling news. Just a thought.

2. To Andy and the rest of the crew in Mayberry: become better communicators.

For goodness sake, do you realize how you made a fool of Barney, plying him with platitudes and lies about his ability? Stop doing that! It’s downright insulting.

We give mixed messages all the time in our attempt to soften the blow of harsh or truthful news. Make agreements with your colleagues to be truthful and honest, even when it may be uncomfortable for you or your audience. Then, when you need to tell someone something that maybe they don’t want to hear, they’ve already agreed that they wish to know. Learn to be respectful, direct communicators, and own up to your own strengths and limitations.

I’m off the couch now — and off to take my own advice!

Sue Hansen has been influencing teams and leaders through her speaking, training and consulting business for two decades. This of course makes her a wise old owl who still strives to learn, grow and adapt. Reach her at sue@suespeaks.com