Several of us had a conversation the other day about trying to help two people change their public images. The other people in the conversation were well-intended friends of the man and woman needing (desperately needing) help. My friends were trying out all kinds of indirect methods for approaching these people. They were afraid to deal with the topic directly.
Since part of my consulting practice is to help those seeking professional growth, to look at their image and to make suggestions for improvement (I’ve even been known to go shopping with clients), I told them you need to be direct but use a warm and friendly manner. If you tell these people that it would enhance their public image if they made slight changes in their grooming and manner of dress, they might be hurt for a second or two, but if they like you they will recognize that you are trying to help them and will be responsive to your help.
“Oh, we don’t want to hurt their feelings” was the surprised reply. But, having worked with people for over thirty years, I know that if you are trusted and liked, you can be direct and honest. It might hurt for a second, but is far less painful than being caught in levels of subterfuge.
The moral of the story: people are a lot stronger emotionally than we give them credit for – honesty with kindness – usually works well.