Straight Talk

Straight Talk

Problems can be confronted, and one’s needs can be made known without making other people feel defensive. An effective communication message involves three components:

(1) owning feelings, (2) sending the feeling or concern, and (3) describing behaviour.

Owning the problem

Ownership of feelings focuses on “who owns the problem.” The sender of a message needs to accept responsibility for his or her own feelings. Messages that own the sender’s feelings usually begin with or contain “I”.

Sending feelings

Sometimes, communicating feelings is viewed as a weakness, but the value of sending feelings is communicating honesty and openness by focusing on the problem and not evaluating the person.

Describing behaviour

Describing behaviour concentrates on what one person sees, hears, and feels about another person’s behaviour as it affects the observer’s feelings and behaviour. The focus is on specific situations that relate to specific times and places. It is useful to distinguish between descriptions and evaluations of behaviour. The italicized parts of the next statements illustrate evaluations of behaviour:

“I can’t finish this report if you are so inconsiderate as to interrupt me” or, “You’re a loudmouth”


Straight Talk – Designing Clear Messages

A straight talk message can be portrayed as follows:

Ownership + Feeling word + Description of behaviour + What would be helpful = Straight Talk


I (ownership) am concerned (feeling word) about finishing this report on time” (description of behaviour), can we talk later. (What would be helpful?).

The effectiveness of straight talk can be attributed to several factors: “I” messages are more effective because they place responsibility with the sender of the message; “I” messages reduce the other person’s defensiveness and resistance to further communication.  Although “I” messages require some courage, they honestly express the speaker’s feelings. Behavioural descriptions provide feedback about the other person’s behaviour but do not evaluate it. Feeling messages promote open communication in work and personal relationships.