How to Communicate Strategically while Remaining Authentic


Not a week goes by that I don’t hear something along these lines.

Audrey, I know in your articles you say it’s best to adapt what we say to who we’re speaking to, but I can’t do that. I am too authentic and too honest. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. If someone can’t take it, that’s their problem. I won’t compromise my values to make someone feel more comfortable.”

I most certainly agree with being authentic and not compromising your values. But that’s missing the point. When I recommend you customize what you say to your audience, I mean you need to take the other person into consideration to be more effective in the way you communicate.

And guess what? You’re already doing it.

Let me give you an example. Imagine you are at a family dinner. Will you say the same things to your five year old niece, your loving mother, and your judgmental uncle? Of course not! With your little niece you might talk about the toys she got for Christmas or her upcoming birthday party. With your mom, you might ask about her health and what you can do to help her. With your judgmental uncle you’ll know to avoid a long list of topics and you might discuss the weather or the food on the table. Does that make you a hypocrite? No, it makes you sensitive and smart. You meet people at their level and don’t initiate conflict.

Let’s take another example. If you are asked the same question by multiple people, you will answer it differently based on who is asking. For example, if you go for a checkup and your doctor asks how you’re doing, you will give a very detailed and honest answer. But if a retail worker at a store asks you how you’re doing, you will say “I am doing well, thank you.” It would make no sense to hide your symptoms from your doctor or give a detailed medical history to the lady bagging your groceries.

How about you do the same with your coworkers?

What you say should vary based on your audience. You will still be 100% truthful but more sensitive than you’ve been in the past. You will speak your truth in a tactful and more effective manner.

In the past, you may have said things too bluntly to get them off your chest. In the name of honesty, you may have created conflict. Or perhaps you spoke too soon, before understanding the other person’s perspective and were not effective. Remember that what counts isn’t what you mean to say but what is heard and understood.

Here are some questions to ponder before speaking with someone at work.

1.     What is your most important goal? For example, is it to share information, to build rapport, to make an ally, to get buy-in, to reassure, to inspire, to reward, etc.? Knowing what outcome you are here to produce will help you avoid faux-pas.

2.     What do you know about the other person’s perspective, agenda, preferences, and fears? Show sensitivity and understanding.

3.     What topics should you avoid?

4.     What topics can you bring up to make the other person feel good?

5.     What does that person need to enjoy this conversation with you?

Here are some examples for #5: A busy and focused person will prefer the conversation to be brief. A person who highly values relationships will need a few extra minutes to bond and feel connected to you. Someone who lacks confidence would enjoy some words of reassurance. A person who likes to impress will appreciate praise.

Again, the point isn’t to say something you don’t believe. Dishonesty would not work because the other person would feel your lack of sincerity and wouldn’t trust you. I am only asking you to show more emotional intelligence and communicate in a way that your words will be well received and understood. That’s a critical factor to have more influence and to be more effective at your job.

If you are interested in discovering how some of your coworkers think, how to build rapport with them, how to make them want to collaborate with you, how to strategically choose words that will reduce tension and make them feel at ease, and other tools to improve collaboration and success, click here to schedule a complimentary consultation with me. 

Don’t wait until you find yourself is a tough situation. Call me before you struggle and there will be no struggle. And if you are already dealing with conflict, it’s not too late to course-correct but let’s start immediately. The longer you wait, the harder it will be.

About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits.  Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset. For more information and free resources visit

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