Radical Candor: I reveal myself and invite others to reveal themselves in order to build understanding and connection

How radical candor can help us build better relationships

Radical candor, the short version

We are often taught to be “professional” or “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” We learn to conceal rather than reveal our true feelings. Radical candor is the practice of revealing our whole selves to others – engaging authentically, directly, and with vulnerability.

Radical candor, the longer version

At work and in our personal lives, our internal experiences and views are often not obvious to those around us. We feel angry when it’s not polite or appropriate. We oppose a decision that is widely supported. Or we have some knowledge that might disappoint or confuse others.

Conventional wisdom tells us to conceal these parts of ourselves. We should hide our feelings because doing otherwise might expose us to criticism and social isolation.

Such concealment can help us in the short term. We are seen as team players, easygoing, and rarely make people feel uncomfortable. But there are also often high costs. We blunt our creativity and therefore our passion and drive. We are forced to accept outcomes that we don’t agree with. Our organizations aren’t exposed to viewpoints that might be critical to their success. They move forward with decisions that are not supported by those tasked with implementing them.

Radical candor is the practice of revealing our whole selves to others – engaging authentically, directly, and with vulnerability. It has emerged as a popular concept over the last few years, enough so to get parodied on HBO’s Silicon Valley. It’s about choosing to reveal ourselves respectfully and authentically rather than concealing and manipulating. It’s about letting go of controlling situations or needing to be right. With radical candor, you are authentic to your viewpoint while acknowledging it’s just one of many.

Radical candor, above the line and below the line
Candor – Above the line (conscious) and below the line (unconscious). Source: Conscious Leadership Group: https://conscious.is/15-commitments.

Candor might be revealing to a boss that something they said made you feel uncomfortable. It might be acknowledging that you are considered about a new business strategy. It might be sharing that you aren’t really doing fine today.

Some use the concept of radical candor to justify being overly blunt, aggressive, and toxic. They say whatever comes to mind without considering how it might be received. This isn’t candor. You can’t truly practice candor without caring for others. Candor is about connecting ourselves to others. Without caring and sensitivity, candor becomes destructive aggression.

Radical candor diagram, featuring ruinous empathy, obnoxious aggression, and manipulative sincerity
Care personally and challenge directly, or risk falling into ruinous empathy, manipulative insincerity, or obnoxious aggression. Source: Radical Candor by Kim Scott, https://www.radicalcandor.com/

Imagine a world when you know what others think and feel and others know what you yearn for and are scared of. Imagine what you could accomplish together when everything is out on the table, everyone is seen and heard, and everything is up for discussion. That is radical candor.

Recommended reading

15 Commitments To Conscious Leadership

Conscious leadership offers the antidote to fear. These pages contain a comprehensive road map to guide you to shift from fear-based to trust-based leadership. Once you learn and start practicing conscious leadership you’ll get results in the form of more energy, clarity, focus and, healthier relationships.

Peter Schulte

Peter Schulte is the Executive Director of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA, USA with his wife, two sons, and cat. Learn more about Peter's store here.

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