How to Say Anything to Anyone by Shari Harley


How to Say Anything to Anyone by Shari Harley

Read the summary below and get the key insights in just 10 minutes!



[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left” font_font=”Raleway”]Communication consultant Shari Harley says today’s workplace lacks crucial candor, and she tells you what to do about it. Everyone would enjoy healthier business interactions if they spoke their minds honestly and openly, and knew that their co-workers would do the same. Harley shares several simple steps to help you initiate and nurture more honest office communication. Her points are quite clear, even when her text proves repetitive. getAbstract recommends Harley’s insightful and useful tips – despite whatever initial awkwardness following them might generate – and recognizes that even if you can’t be completely honest with absolutely everyone, a more straightforward workplace remains a worthy goal.[/text_block]

In this summary, you will learn

  • How to create honest and supportive business relationships,
  • How to share your work concerns more openly, and
  • How to give effective feedback.


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“How to Establish Candid Relationships”

Create a platform for honest relationships from the moment you start to work with someone. Take these steps to create a pattern of candor:

  • “Set expectations” – Lay the groundwork with your co-workers before problems arise. Let everyone know you want positive working relationships. Discuss “roles and responsibilities,” and explain how you plan to interact. Mutually agree to exchange open, honest feedback and to not take “anything personally.” Decide how often these talks will take place and who will run them. Even if you’ve worked with several co-workers for a while, your relationships can be more open. Welcome their concerns and explain that you would like them to be open to your feedback, as you will be open to theirs. Encourage everyone to speak up if a project goes awry. Tell your staffers to let you know if you overstep the boundaries you set. This conversation helps limit the misunderstandings that can derail working relationships. Periodically touch base with others about your performance. “Priorities change”; what you agreed on long ago may no longer fit.
  • Understand “the consequences of insufficient expectations” – Clearly detail your expectations at the very start or expect to become aggravated. Jeff was a member of a project team. He was always late, gossiped instead of working and wasted time surfing the Internet. Other group members were furious, but no one confronted Jeff or reported him to the head of the project. Jeff would have behaved differently if, at the very first meeting, the team explained each assigned task and decided what to do if anyone didn’t pull his or her weight.
  • “Prepare for things to go wrong” – Anticipate potential problems and try to avoid them by using planned “preventions.” For example, tell everyone at the start of your meeting to silence their cellphones and not check their email. This prevents undesired interruptions and helps everyone focus. A “fallback” is the “consequence” participants accept ahead of time. Consider making a latecomer rule. Anyone entering a meeting after it starts must place a “dollar in a jar” to pay for a drink at happy hour later.
  • Ask about “working-style preferences” – Are your co-workers comfortable with face-to-face interactions? What time of the day works best for them? If something comes up, should you schedule a meeting, drop by unannounced or phone? When something urgent happens, can you interrupt them? If an issue arises during non-working hours, can you call before or after work and until what time in the evening? What working behaviors get on their nerves? How do they tend to act when irritated? Discuss these questions in person, never via email. Face-to-face discussions build your relationships.
“How to Create Candid Managerial Relationships”

Tell your employees your expectations from the start. When you supervise new people, explain how you plan to guide them. State that you will share positive and negative feedback to help them achieve work-related goals. Being open builds trust.

Be careful about making assumptions or failing to communicate. Author Shari Harley accepted a position as a representative for a training firm. She didn’t know a lot about selling, but she was willing to move to Fort Collins in northern Colorado. About a month after her move, her boss, who was based on the other side of the state, called her. He was angry. He wanted to know why Harley wasn’t attending weekly meetings in his office. Harley told him that she was busy setting up things in Fort Collins and her boss said, “It’s very clear I can’t trust you.” Harley was apparently supposed to stay near him to complete three months of training. No one had told her that. Her boss assumed that she knew and had defied him.

“Candor Questions”

Set aside a 90-minute meeting or two 45-minute meetings to ask new staff members the following questions. Heed their responses. If you don’t have time for all of the questions, focus on the first two: 1) Name “three things” that would entice you to stay with the company. 2) Name “the one thing” that might make you leave. 3) Name three things you need to feel fulfilled in a position. 4) What is your favorite activity? 5) What would you like to do, but have never done? 6) Name one or more “skills” you’d like to strengthen. 7) Do you prefer to have your efforts touted “publicly or privately?” 8) Where do you see yourself in “one year” or “in three years?” 9) Why did you take this position, and what do you hope to achieve? 10) What worries you? 11) What do you do when you feel “frustrated and need support?” 12) What can I tell you about myself? 13) What else would you like to share about yourself? Close with: “Any other questions?”

“A Strong Start”

As you offer new staff members details about their job, unit of the company and work group, provide context. Team members need details that help them navigate “how things work” in your organization. You give this type of insider information, for example as someone joins your family for a holiday meal when you say, “My dad can’t hear out of his left ear, so make sure you always speak into the right one.” Or, “Uncle Al is a die-hard Mets fan, so don’t mention the Yankees if you want dessert.” When you share information that senior managers already know, you grant new workers a strong start.

When Harley first met her new boss, he shared no insider or contextual information. After several weeks, Harley was stunned to discover that a new co-worker detested her. The co-worker cornered Harley outside the conference room and screamed, “Just who the hell do you think you are coming in here and––!” The list consisted of tasks Harley “had been hired to do.” She learned that the angry woman thought she should have gotten Harley’s job – even though no one else agreed. This tense situation could have been avoided if someone told this worker that she was wrong for the position and would never get it. Harley would have proceeded with greater care had she known how her disgruntled co-worker felt.

“Effective Managers Ask for Feedback”

Few managers ask for staff feedback. Ask your staff members for their feedback to earn their loyalty. Occasionally, invite your employees to share what they find helpful about your “management style.” Ask for candid feedback at performance reviews. Find out how your employees feel about the way you direct the staff. What they would like you to do more frequently or less often? Communicate how much you value your relationship with your employees. Faced with this rare behavior, top employees may think twice before leaving to work somewhere else.

“Managing Up with Candor”

Your relationship with your manager has a significant impact on your success. Seek to help your manager shine in the eyes of his or her superiors. Ask your manager to comment on your efforts. Are your reports adequate? How can you make your information more accessible? Should you incorporate visual aids?

If you take over someone else’s job, seek them out and ask for background on the position. What was its original purpose? Why did the other person leave? What prompted the company to appoint a new person at this specific time and not sooner? Within your job, find the areas your manager cares deeply about. Then, if your boss asks for updates or attempts to work on those areas, you won’t feel “micromanaged.”

Strong Workplace Relationships

“Learn the organization’s politics and unwritten rules.” Know your company calendar and don’t take time off during the most hectic period of the year. Ask questions; don’t wait to be told. Explore the workings of every department, including your own. Recognize how your unit and other departments affect one another. For example, Harley learned at a division meeting that another department was working on a task she had been focusing on for at least two months – the two groups could have combined their efforts. Stay proactive to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Delicate Situations

A friend asked a vice president of a company why his position appeared on a job-search website. That’s how the VP learned that he was about to be replaced. The company wanted to fill the spot without delay, and they advertised it before notifying the VP himself. Today, “you can be fired and never know it.”

In another company, Sarah complained to Ann’s boss about Ann’s poor managerial capabilities. The boss fired Ann as Sarah’s manager. This could have been avoided had Ann asked Sarah what she should know about Sarah’s division, what had recently transpired there, what was working and what was not, and how her teams were collaborating.

How others see you is more important than what you say. Don’t assume that all is well just because no one says otherwise. Stay gracious and remember to say thank you. Your appreciation will always motivate others.

Gossip undermines relationships. Be true to your word, honest and forthcoming. If a situation deserves an explanation, provide an accurate one. You don’t have to tell your employees everything. But if you don’t comment on major events, workers will busy themselves with counterproductive explanations of their own. For example, if John leaves the company and no one in authority explains why, rumors may circulate about illicit affairs or theft.

Provide feedback when someone wants to know what you think or when you want to help someone improve their work habits. But also know “when to shut up.” Don’t say anything when you are upset and want to vent; when you dislike someone and need to let him or her know; or when you aren’t asked to review co-workers, but you think they should hear your opinion, too. Never embarrass a co-worker in front of others.

“The Feedback Formula”

Use “eight steps” to express your thoughts “in two minutes or less”:

“Savvy employees know that they also manage their bosses. When we don’t manage upward, our careers stagnate.”

  1. Open your talk with a description of what you plan to discuss and your purpose.
  2. Consider your staff member’s feelings.
  3. “Describe the observed behavior.”
  4. Describe the “impact or result” of the actions.
  5. Ask your staff member what he or she thinks about the issue at hand.
  6. State how you think the problem should be handled in the future.
  7. If follow-up steps are required, agree on those steps.
  8. “Say thank you.”
“Remove the Emotion and Deal with the Facts”

Keep your feelings to yourself and be direct. Don’t “dance around an issue.” Be concise and use words such as, “I’ve noticed.” Stick to your personal observations. If you begin by quoting what someone else has said about your staff members, you will provoke a “defensive reaction” and make it harder for them to hear you. While you are trying to share information, they’ll be wondering who “betrayed” them.

“Practice the 24-Hour Guideline and the One-Week Rule”

Never wait longer than a week to discuss an event. Take “24 hours” before you bring up particularly troubling situations. Don’t rush the discussion. Don’t instigate a conversation when your co-worker or staffer has to deal with other crises. Keep your comments to a minimum and discuss only a few items at a time. Your conversation must remain private. Don’t hesitate to give feedback. Better to say something “all wrong” than to avoid the topic all together.

“Dealing with Difficult Situations”

Even with honest feedback, some co-workers will still be difficult. Solicit help. Bring in someone to “intervene.” If your boss doesn’t comment about your work, invite trusted colleagues to do so. If you get promoted over former co-workers, “name the game”: In one-on-one talks, share how “awkward” the new situation is for you and let each person know you want to have a positive “working relationship.” Invite each to share how it feels to have you as a manager.

If a former co-worker won’t accept your authority, run through the “feedback formula” steps above. If you offer comments to a worker and nothing changes, point out the misbehavior every time it recurs. If a worker cries after you give feedback, suggest taking a break and offer to return to the discussion later.[/text_block]

About the Author

[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left” font_font=”Raleway”]Consultant Shari Harley founded Candid Culture, a firm that teaches honest communication.[/text_block]
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