Radical Candor: Calling Yourself Out

By Elisa Hebert, Head of Operations and Client Solutions

Kenzan + Sourced
3 min readFeb 10, 2020

This is the second post in a multi-part series about Radical Candor and authenticity in the workplace. To start at the beginning, check out the first post in the series.

When I first saw the Radical Candor chart, I was both embarrassed and enlightened. I am, more often than I’d like to admit, bent downward on the scale toward Obnoxious Aggression.

Image by Radical Candor

I will also admit that it felt sort of satisfying to hear that it’s the second-best option (but clearly in the distance to, rather than on the heels of, Radical Candor).

Caring Personally and Challenging Directly seem like great ideas, and they work really well. But don’t be fooled — even for folks who naturally gravitate in that direction, it is WORK. The baseline is always deep caring for the humans in your orbit, and using that as the centerpoint for your operations. It can also mean some hard truths for you; be ready to become Radically Candid with yourself before you can really leverage it outward.

For me, some of these hard truths are things like:

  • While I see it as a sign of deep interest (I want to know how ALLTHETHINGS work), peppering people with questions can be a little daunting at best and invasive at worst.
  • I have a bias for speed and action — but that can sometimes feel like a steamroller.
  • There are times when I take up all the air in the room because I am either so excited about the topic or anxious to cut to the chase. What viewpoints am I missing as a result?
  • I can occasionally (this is more rare, frankly) lean left instead of down and end up in Ruinous Empathy. It is HARD to be this level of honest and direct and empathetic all the time — I hate hurting people’s feelings.

So I’ve come clean. Your turn now. What are your hard truths?

  • If you’re a manager and you don’t really like managing other humans, but you see it as the only way to promotion, do you have the courage to say I don’t want to manage people?
  • When you’re in a room of strangers, shaking hands and meeting people, and realize your personality is a little different, are you able to look at that and ask yourself which version is the real you? Do you give yourself the space to evolve with those who know you best?
  • When you start a new job, the years of history and who you were before don’t necessarily come along with it. When you start a new relationship, do you carry the baggage of the old?
  • Can you be Radically Candid with yourself about where your soft bits are, where you have strengths, and what you have to offer?

Once we figure out what our hard truths are, we can start to understand how to address them. Some of your hard truths might be a quick fix, and some might be years in the making. If we’re not willing to really look at ourselves, and find our own soft spots, we can’t possibly ask people to hear from us about their own, regardless of the relationship. Vulnerability has its own gravitational force, especially when it’s driven by the strength of character it takes to acknowledge where you’re a work in progress yourself.

In the next post, we’ll look at the intersection of Radical Candor and management. In the meantime, here’s some homework. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you be brave in changing how you approach the world and your place in it?
  • Which quadrant of the Radical Candor chart do you tend toward, and what can you do to keep returning to the top right?
  • What hard truths do you need to hear — from yourself or from someone else?

If you enjoyed this article, good news! It’s the second in a series. Catch up on all of Elisa’s articles on Radical Candor here:

Part 1, The Daily Practice of Crit(ique)
Part 3,
Management Style: Sunny With a Chance of Bananas
Part 4,
Pink Hair, Piercings, and Professional Services
Part 5,
Pandemically Candid
Part 6,
Rocket Fuel for Your Teams