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French Version

Contrast : Frankness and the three C’s

When someone says, “Let me be frank with you,” one can expect what will come next: Usually a statement that will be resented by the person receiving the frank remark. That is usually because this remark is usually negative. It usually carries a Criticism, Condemnation, or Complaint. These are called “The Three C’s”.

There are different opinions on this issue of frankness. To demonstrate, let us take a business world situation. Suppose a colleague at work asked you, just before an important presentation, if he looked nervous. Let us assume he looked very nervous. Should you be frank and tell him that he looked like a nervous wreck? Or should you lie so as not to hurt his feelings or even make him more nervous? What should one do? Everyday at work we are faced with similar situations. Someone asks for opinion and we are faced with the possibility of the person requesting the opinion being negatively affected or hurt by the answer. There are three opinions on this issue: The frank, the “white lie”, and the “no 3 C’s”.

The frank opinion advocates say that frankness rules. They will use statements like “there is nothing like frankness” as translated literally from Arabic. Advocates of this opinion usually boast about telling it as it is to whoever asks for it, regardless of age, status, or gender. To them, being frank is the same as being truthful. Not following this philosophy would label someone as a liar, hypocrite, or at least a coward. In a situation like the one we mentioned above, a person who adopts the frankness opinion would probably answer with a statement that starts with: “To be frank with you, you look very nervous. You better relax or your presentation will be a failure.”

To the advocates of this opinion, you can use this technique to tell it as it is to anyone. All you have to do is qualify your statement by starting with the magic line: “To be frank with you…” and follow it with any remark that would serve the purposes of frankness and truthfulness. On the other side of the spectrum are people with a totally opposing opinion. They believe in something called a “white lie”. A “white lie” is a one that will not hurt anyone and at the same time would make someone feel good. So in our example, a person believing in the white lie would answer: “You! Look nervous? Absolutely not! You look very calm and relaxed.”

Frankness to people of the “white lie” opinion is, often, rude, cruel, and uncivilized. It is a brute force that people use to make others feel bad. In between the above two options, there exists a third opinion that approaches the issue from a different perspective. This is the “No 3 C’s” philosophy. Followers of this communication school believe that one should never lie; so they would not lie to make someone feel good. At the same time, they do not feel they have to be frank, if frankness is going to have negative consequences. Instead, they will find a positive thing to say without lying but also without being negative. If we go back to our situation, proponents of this opinion would answer with a line like this: “You are going to do great! I know you can. You have nothing to be nervous about. You have a good presentation and the audience likes you. You are going to be just fine. Go out there and give them the best that you have got.” Examining the statements above, one would notice that it is full of positive and encouraging statements. The statements did not carry any Criticism, Condemnation, or Complaint. These are the “3C’s”. People of this opinion avoid making any statements that contain any of the “3C’s”.

Even if these statements were true. People who strictly follow the “No 3 C’s” school are few, but they are easy to spot: Think about people you feel good being around. These are usually the “No 3 C’s” people; they make others feel good about themselves. On the other hand, people who make others feel bad about themselves are people who use the “3 C’s” a lot. One of the rules of positively influencing people is to make people feel good about themselves. The no “3C’s” are some of the most unanimously admired characters in the world. They do not complain, criticize, or condemn. They make the best bosses, the best colleagues, and best friends. What do you think? Email me with your comments at amango@methodcorp.com

Amar W Mango
The Star

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