The Wrong Way to Win Friends and Influence People

Earlier this morning, I commented "Honesty without compassion is cruelty," in response to Chip Cutter's excellent piece on Bridgewater Associates' policy of radical transparency. But that got me thinking about whether I, too, am a bit radical when it comes to telling my clients and friends the truth.


For example, in my first conversation with a new client, I always apologize and warn him or her, "In the interest of helping you as quickly and significantly as possible, I tend to be very frank and direct. Not everyone likes this."


Most people respond by saying something to the effect of, "Don't worry, I highly value honest feedback." A few are oddly quiet. But even the people who abhor frank feedback never warn me off.


A few weeks pass. In most cases, my initial objective is to help a new client focus his or her messages in a clear and compelling manner. This always requires changes on their part, because if they were doing this already, they would not have sought me out.


So, to use a fictional example, new client Denise wants to rush ahead and promote her new product and I warn her that blatant self-promotion seldom works in social media. She gets insulted and runs off to look for a new writer.


This is a very good thing.


Hiding the truth to protect a relationship is a sign that you shouldn't be in the relationship, whether it is with a client or friend.


Be respectful, professional, and helpful... but never fudge the truth.


It is far better to be honest and direct. Yes, be compassionate and tactful... but never fudge the truth. You will be doing a disservice to both yourself and all others.


I have both friends and clients who occasionally seem invulnerable to the truth. I share facts and observations, both of which seem to bounce off their invisible force field.


Has this happened to you when you tried to be honest and helpful?


But I persist, at least to the degree that it still seems constructive.


In business, it takes time for a new client to become profitable. There are always costs of coming up to speed on a new account, such as learning each client's needs and preferences. It's not worth making such investments in a client who you will never be able to help in a significant manner.

Plus - if we're being frank here - it will never be gratifying to serve a suspicious, hesitant client.


I love my loyal clients. They are fascinating, brilliant, curious, and tenacious. They love feedback, because they are driven (as one wrote me this morning) to #NeverStopGrowing.


Embrace clients and friends who have a strong growth mindset. But don't invest time in those who simply want you to pump up their ego. You'll be slowing down your own growth.

(This blog was first published on LinkedIn. It has been re-posted here with prior permission from Bruce Kasanoff.)

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Bruce Kasanoff

Bruce Kasanoff helps companies empower and inspire their employees. He brings relentlessly positive messages of personal empowerment, flexibility and clarity. ...

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