How To Be Direct At Work (In Your Communication)

You don't need to be pushy or act like a know-it-all. Just follow these tips for being direct at work (and see what mistakes to avoid).

The Meetingnotes Team
December 6, 2023

Directness is a valuable skill that everyone should have, but most people aren't direct because it can be uncomfortable.

More commonly, people are passive aggressive. That, or they'll gossip, hoping word will reach someone instead of going to them directly with their complaint or criticism.

Most of us don't like the idea of directness, even if we actually appreciate it. We don't like the feeling that we might be attacked. When we perceive a message as too direct, we're likely to become defensive.

Being direct with others is about sharing your feelings in a timely and appropriate way

But when done well, being direct puts issues out in the open for everyone to consider. It's a faster and more productive way to communicate.

The key to being direct at work is to communicate in clear, concise, and rational terms, assertively, but not angrily.

Why you need to be direct at work

To work for a company as a long-term career, you need to be able to speak directly about your position, ideas, and opinions.

Especially in meetings with your team, being direct makes it easier for people to provide advice and feedback on the situation. Directness gives them an opportunity to help you because they know specifically where the issue is. It saves everyone time because you're saying what you really mean.

Being direct allows you to have a better relationship with your coworkers and your manager. When there are problems at work, you can clear them up, rather than letting them linger. And your meetings can be shorter.

How to be more direct at work

Be confident. Don't second guess yourself. Speak your mind and make sure that what you say is clear and concise. If you're going to be disagreeing with someone's idea, be considerate but confident.

Be comfortable with silence. It's easier to speak up when something is on your mind but it can feel like an eternity to sit there not saying anything while everyone else gets their say. Be comfortable with silence and speak when you're ready.

Don't be mean, but don't hold back either. Let your ideas be heard so people can understand your perspective, even if it's unpopular. This will give them an opportunity to provide feedback on what you could have done differently.

Listen to others' opinions. Actively listening to others will help foster an environment where everyone can express themselves for directly. If you've just been direct with someone, make sure to take the time to also listen to their response, whether or not they are able to express themselves as directly as you have.

Also give praise or positive feedback. There's a difference between being direct and always being mean. You don't need to tear someone down just because you're being direct. You can also be direct with praise and positive feedback as well.

When to avoiding being too direct at work

There are a few situations where you should avoid being too direct:

During a presentation - Don't cut someone off in the middle of their speech, but also don't sit there and let them talk for an hour about something irrelevant. If their idea doesn't fit the criteria or goals that they were given when they were assigned the task, say something.

When you're angry with someone - It's okay to be direct, but it needs to happen at a time when everyone is calm and can receive the information properly. If someone has done something that angers you, try waiting until things have cooled down before voicing your concerns. You

When you're feeling hurt - If you're personally dealing with something that's deeply bothering you, even if it doesn't have to do with your job, it's usually not a good time to be direct. Your emotional experience might be coloring your thoughts. In these situations, it's usually best to wait until you're feeling calmer and more rational before approaching someone.

When you're being too direct

Not all messages are straightforward, though, especially when it comes to personal issues. So while speaking about work topics, it can be quite easy to be direct, for personal situations, indirectness can be beneficial.

For example, if you're interested in someone romantically and want to ask them out, being direct can be refreshing, but in a professional context, it can also be inappropriate unless you've exchanged some less direct signals first.


Common mistakes when being direct

It can seem like being direct is a very easy thing to do, but a lot of people make a few common communication mistakes when they first try to be more assertive:

Talking too much - If you're new to being direct, it's possible that you might be compensating for having been shy or timid in the past by talking too much. You need to find balance and keep an eye on how long you're talking so your message doesn't get lost.

Being pushy - Sometimes you might feel like it's important to be really assertive so you can make sure your message isn't lost. But you don't need to take it so far as to stifle the ideas of others.

Trying to sound smart - Being direct is about sharing your opinion and having it be heard. It's not about trying to sound smart or correct everyone else around you (which can come across as antagonistic).

Not letting others speak in return - Being direct is no reason not to let others get their turn to share as well. Disclosing information is all about building trust with each other so everyone has the opportunity to share their thoughts rather than feeling like they'd be wasting their breath on an issue you've already made up your mind about.

Being ice cold - Being too direct can come across as cold, mean or disinterested in other people's ideas. It can also make you seem like a know-it-all who thinks they're always right or are better than everyone else. Find a balance of being direct and showing appreciation for others.

Is it worth it to be direct?

Sure, there are times when you should avoid being too direct.

But in most situations, people appreciate the honesty and it can lead to more open dialogue so everyone can be on board with whatever is happening at work. Just be aware of the situation and people involved before jumping right in. Once you've mastered it, being direct will definitely be beneficial for you and your career.

What happens if you're not direct?

If you aren't direct enough, people might misunderstand the information and make the wrong choices about something important because you weren't clear enough up front.

They also might think that you're not confident about your ideas, which can cause them to not take your thoughts seriously. If you're only ever indirect at work, people might start to think that you don't have much to contribute and go elsewhere for advice.

Do managers value directness?

It depends on what kind of manager they are. Some like it when everyone is always direct with each other; others would prefer if their staff only brought up a topic when it really mattered.

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