The Benefits of Being Direct

by Lewis Denbaum

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One of the best ways to get what you want is to be direct. Clearly ask for what you want. Be polite, not apologetic. What do you want, exactly? Describe the end result or deliverable in as much detail as is necessary for the other person to understand what you wish for and expect, To do this properly, you need to be precise about what you want; think it through carefully so you can articulate it unambiguously.

When do you want it by? Again, be precise. “By Monday” is not precise enough, unless you are OK with delivery up till 11:59 p.m. Monday night. A more precise way of communicating would desired deadline would be “by Monday at 9 a.m.” or “by close of business on Monday.”

In what format do you want it? If you have preferences, state them. Do you want a “hard” copy or an electronic copy? If it’s an electronic copy, do you care if it is a Word document or a PDF? Black and white or color?

It is helpful if you state the “why” behind your request. This gives the other person perspective about the job. For example, you might say, “I need you to summarize our sales for the 4th quarter by product line and region. I need this information by 9 a.m. on Monday. I will be using the information for a proposal to one of our biggest clients, and I must digest the information before inserting it into the proposal. I must mail the proposal on Monday.”

As Barbara Pachter points out in her article “These Two Communication Strategies Will Get You What You Want” for Business Insider, there is a powerful but little-recognized communication tool leaders can use to get what they want.

Using a question (Can you please clean your room?) allows the other person to make the choice, and you may not get what you want. You are being less direct.

Using a direct statement, such as “Sweetie, I want you to clean your room before lunch,” makes it very clear what you expect, and as a result you are more likely to get it. Of course, there are no guarantees with three-year-olds, but even with children, you have a better chance of getting what you want when you are direct.

This “secret” can also work in the workplace. Listen to the difference: “Boss, I would like to go to the conference next week,” versus “Boss, may I go to the conference?” Both are polite, but which one sounds more likely to give the speaker what she wants? The direct statement usually has more success.

The key is to be assertive and avoid using the word “try.”

*This article originally appeared on LewisDenbaum.com.


Lewis DenbaumLewis Denbaum is the CEO, Chief Communication Consultant, Executive and Life Coach at Lewis Denbaum and Associates. He knows from firsthand experience that top-notch communicationskills are key to productivity, team building, employee satisfaction and company growth. He has developed and honed a range of effective communication techniques during his diverse career, spanning law and accounting, senior-level management, teaching and relationship coaching, that are applicable in any business environment. Connect with Lewis on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter @LewisDenbaum.