Developer growth, Practice Empathy

Communicating with Candor – when honesty alone isn’t enough

Working in any team environment will involve communication between its members. To really bring the best out in others and yourself, having a culture of where honesty is important. It’s also something almost anybody will verbally agree to. Yet being open and honest in a good way is extremely hard. How often do you refrain from saying something completely honestly because you don’t want to embarrass someone. Or what about the time somebody called you out on something in front of the team? Sure you may have needed that feedback, but what happens to your relationship with that person? What about the team dynamics?

Blunt honesty can not only be harsh, but downright devastating to hear. How then are we meant to move beyond the complications of honest communication and get to a place where our being honest actually provides room for everyone to grow?


Candor: Frankness or sincerity of expression; openness.

Source: Wordnik

This thread about the redundancy of honest and candid in a sentence, and the accepted answer do well to define the difference between candor and honesty:

while candor does relate to honesty, it usually has a sense of being not only honest, but direct, frank, or otherwise outspoken. So it’s quite possible to state something honestly, but not particularly candidly by beating around the bush or being especially tactful.

Now this helps define candor as being completely open and honest. Being frank, and sincere with what is being communicated. So this means that by being sincere while being honest means being direct, but also in a considerate way.

This brings us closer to how candor can help improve the intentions of our communication, but not really how to improve the communication itself. The above stated examples could all be spoken with candor.

Radical Candor

This lead me to “Radical Candor”, which I recently heard about this from Andrea Goulet’s presentation “Communication is just as important as code“.

Radical Candor™ is the ability to give feedback in a way that challenges people directly and shows you care about them personally. Radical Candor will help you and all the people you work with do the best work of your careers, and it will improve your relationships.


Radical Candor is a framework for giving feedback, specifically directed at leaders and managers from Candor Inc. A co-founder, Kim Scott, held a presentation on Radical Candor.

Caring Personally, Challenging Directly & being HHIPP

Radical Candor chart. Source: First Round

From the above definition, when we communicate from a place of caring personally, and at the same time being direct with our message, we are able to move past the awkwardness and flaws of honest communication.

Defining Radical Candor with the acronym HHIPP.

HHIPP: “Radical candor is Humble, it’s Helpful, it’s Immediate, it’s in Person — in private if it’s criticism and in public if it’s praise — and it doesn’t Personalize.”

With HHIPP, it’s clear how Radical Candor really can help how we give feedback to others in our team. By truly focusing on caring personally about the person or people we are communicating with, and by being direct and constructive with our own communication.

Final thoughts

I like the idea of candor, especially because it’s easier to have a discussion within teams about what it means. Whereas any discussion about honesty leads nowhere, you’re either honest or dishonest, and nobody will insist on dishonesty.

The Radical Candor framework also seems like a great starting point to raise the flaws of honest communication, and bringing forth the value of considering not only what we communicate, but also how and with whom.

I’ll be exploring this topic further and hopefully bring this back into the team I work in.

What are your thoughts about candid vs honest communication? Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any thoughts, questions or criticisms. Or leave a comment below.

Photo credit: Green_Mamba via Visualhunt / CC BY-ND