One of the first articles I wrote as Managing Editor of Nonprofit Hub was something about why I hate the nonprofit sector. Obviously I don’t hate the nonprofit sector as a whole, but there are definite things about it that drive me nuts. One of them is the inevitable propensity for pussyfooting.
Sheena Greer, self-titled Chief Ass-Kicker & Crayon Evangelist at Colludo and our host, Randy Hawthorne touch on something very similar when they talk about how people in the nonprofit sector have this habit of not being direct but instead speaking passive aggressively towards each other and about our mission to their publics.
As Sheena puts it, using ambiguous words when talking about serious issues like child hunger is just not appropriate. If you were talking to your toddler niece about your mean drunk uncle, you might say “Uncle Tim gets a little funny when he has too many adult soda pops.” But to your sister, you would call it like you see it, “Uncle Tim is a mean drunk!”
In the same way, our messaging around serious topics that we deal with on a daily basis are the equivalent to talking to your peers with toddler speak. Whether you’re talking to your audience or dealing with internal communications, being direct helps efficiency and keeps everyone on the same page.
One caveat Sheena gives, is that being direct and rude are not the same thing. If your coworker has kept her stinky leftover Chinese in the fridge far too long, you have essentially four options. You can say something indirect and passive aggressive about her stinky Chinese food, you can say something extremely rude and combative, say nothing at all, or kindly and directly confront her about her stinky food habits and how you’d like her to fix it.
For more on fixing our communication style, check out our podcast with Sheena Greer and one of my personal favorite podcasts about healthy workplace culture called Awesome Office—the two-part series on the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership is a great place to start.