Softening Hard Edges

For nearly 3 weeks we’ve been having our front drive reconfigured.  At one stage we had a ‘moat’ as a lot of soil around a rose bed was dug out.

Noisy, dusty, dirty and longer-than-quoted.  Heyho.  

We stayed in the ‘messy middle’ part for longer than we’d anticipated.

Now it’s nearly finished something jumped out at me.  

There are a lot of hard edges.  

  • Bricks meeting bricks.  
  • Soil flat and bare.  
  • Plants covered in dust.  
  • Not easy on the eye.

The edges need softening with planting and and movement and colour so they don’t appear so stark.

Ironically, this reminds me of two separate coaching clients I’ve worked with this week and conversations we had.

Two different women wanted to work on how to deliver tough and unpopular messages without upsetting everyone by being too direct or ‘scaring the horses’ as one said.

The edges need softening on their messages.

Here’s what I mean with 3 scenarios …

Say you want to say

  1. “If we don’t do something this project is going to fail” or 
  2. “Because everyone’s taken so long to decide, we are now going to miss our deadlines.” or
  3. “I think that idea stinks and it’s going to send us over budget.”

All real-world kind of messages and all tricky to deliver.

Even if you’re the CEO you have to be sensitive to who’s listening and their agenda as they can de-rail things.

 To make these 3 tricky message easier to deliver (without taking the punch away) is to soften the edges with a little careful positioning first.

  1. Knowing we have so much riding on this for our 2023/24 targets, we need to make some tough decisions now or this project will fail. <<reminding people of the bigger picture
  2. Appreciate there’s a load going on and no one’s feeling comfortable about this but we’re going to miss our deadlines as we’ve taken so long to decide.  What’s our best move now OR So I suggest xxx << empathy and acknowledgement of what’s going on
  3. Maybe I’ve missed something in the explanation here John (or whoever) so if you could talk me through how it will work again and we make sure it’s going to fit within budget, I’d appreciate it. << giving a little of the benefit of the doubt without making John feel uncomfortable (yet)...

Now I get that it’s not always easy to say the tough stuff.  

It’s something I’ve been supporting clients to get their head and their language around for years and it doesn’t have to be a fencing match.

What I do know though is this.

If you can only deliver ‘nice’ messages and information, you’re always going to be behind the person who can say what needs to be said, get people on side (or at least understanding the ‘Why’ behind your thinking).  

We want you up the front, if you want to be and people appreciate knowing the tough stuff, it’s just if you can soften the hard edges of your messages it’s easier for people to take it on board.

In other news…


We love the North Norfolk coastline and have been there many times.  Last weekend was just wonderful to have the hounds running on the beach, the views and the sandy, windy beaches.  All 5 of us (our 3 hounds, Snowy & I) stayed in the same hotel room 😵‍💫 which had its moments (3am waking to find Douglas on the bed between us!)

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