Clear Comm Consulting

Taming the Straight Shooter

Sep 28, 2023

Do you know people who are simply straight shooters? They don’t sugar coat anything and you sometimes get their message right between the eyes. The good news is you always know where you stand with this person, right? The bad news is, as they grow in their leadership responsibilities, that style may not always work – or be acceptable. What, then, do you do with the “straight shooter?”

On one hand, they are valuable for their direct, no-nonsense approach. That’s especially true when a difficult message needs to be delivered. This person will not flinch. At the same time, they also can upset some people who need a different communication style. That direct approach can feel like a harsh rebuke instead of a helpful message. In addition, any leader must factor in generational differences and how communication styles don’t always translate well across the many age groups you can find in today’s workplace.

The Preface

In working with this kind of leader, I often suggest The Preface. It’s important to understand that a straight shooter is unlikely to completely change their ways, so they might simply add something BEFORE they deliver their direct message. The idea is simple enough and often feels doable for this personality type. They still hold on to their straightforward ways but just provide some context, so the listener understands what’s coming. Let’s look at some examples:

“I believe issues are best handled when they are discussed face-to-face and addressed in a straightforward manner…”

“I value the role you play here and so I want to let you know something important…”

“I hope you’ll look at this conversation as valuable, even if some of what I have to say may be hard to hear…”

“I think it’s important that you hear this from me in person because I’ve given it a lot of thought…”

You get the idea – and there are more where that comes from. The most important thing to understand is this works as a hack for those who always want to jump right to their sometimes-harsh message.

Finally, you may hear this refrain from the straight shooter: “Hey, this is the way I am. People can either get on board or too bad for them.” Well, that may have worked for them previously, but as leaders evolve, they need to add more tools in their toolbox. Having The Preface in their arsenal makes it possible for them to deliver a direct, straight shooter message with some context first, giving the message a higher probability of being heard.

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected].

Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer

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