Candor (noun)

can·​dor | \ ˈkan-dər  , -ˌdȯr \

According to Merriam-Webster, candor definition is the "openness of mind, impartiality, frankness, freedom from reserve or disguise." OK Merriam, but what does candor mean? In layman's terms, candor is defined as direct, frank, and just plain truthful.

Candor is no "small" skill. It's the foundation of a healthy work environment that allows a free flow of information. But in reality, professionals aren't too keen on being transparent. Building a candid culture establishes trust, pinpoints problems, and helps teams come up with creative solutions.

P.S. – We also have a candor skill guide! Take a look at examples of candid leaders, our candor do's and don'ts, and professionals that can benefit from this skill!

Candor Skill Guide | Definition and Examples | Matter
Candor is communicating in a truthful and straightforward manner. Learn what is candor, examples, and how to improve it.

Origins of candor definition

Merriam-Webster traces candor's definition back to three different languages. Looking at the Latin verb candēre, this root word means "to shine or glow." Candor also derives from the ancient Welsh word can which means "white." And, it can be located to the Sanskrit language with candati meaning "it shines."

You’re probably thinking how today's definition of candor (direct and honest) was extracted from candati which means "to shine?" Language throughout time evolves and expands with influences from various cultures or technological advancements.

Think about the word candle. It makes sense that the definition "to shine" was derived from the invention of the candle. However, as technology advanced, the definition evolved to directness and transparency. You can see that today’s interpretation runs parallel to the original definition.

Take a peek at Kim Scott's radical candor story. Her interesting encounter with a stranger in busy New York left her with a new perspective of candor. One that she'll live by forever.

Kim Scott share a story about a stranger's definition of candor: “It’s not mean; it’s clear.” (Courtesy of Youtube)

Candor synonyms

Synonyms of candor include directness, frankness, sincerity, honesty, openness, and truthfulness. Like the New York City stranger that Kim Scott ran into said, it's about being clear, not mean. Candor holds the power to foster a healthy work environment.

Benevolent intentions: Among the faces of candor, it can also be defined as a silver lining. Believing that your colleagues have good intentions helps you focus on cultivating sincere and honest conversations.  

Be thoughtful: Candor is about thinking of others. A candid conversation includes compassion and treating your colleagues with respect. It's not about personal attacks, it's about finding constructive ways to improve.

He looks at me and says, “It’s not mean; it’s clear.” And then the light changes, and he walks off and leaves me with words to live by.”

– Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor

Focusing on the good of the company: You want to get your point across, but also make sure it's impactful. The goal is to deliver a polite and concise message. That means no fluff or sugar-coating. Your peers will appreciate how you value their time during a candid conversation.

Be objective: Impartiality is key to candor. While opinions should not be disregarded, a candid individual listens to all perspectives before coming to a conclusion. This skill leaves the door open for voices and facts to prevail.

The power of brevity: The spirit of candor is directness. We mentioned in the previous bullet that sharing your thoughts doesn’t mean beating around the bush. It’s getting to the heart of the conversation while practicing crisp communication.

As there are a variety of synonyms, there are just as many antonyms to candor in the workplace (Courtesy of UX Collective) 

Candor antonyms

Candor's definition does not include the following antonyms: insincerity, deceit, dishonesty, and ingenuousness. This is what we don't want to exude in the workplace. The critical ingredient for a candid culture is directness not bluntness. With that in mind, take a look at what a lack of candor can lead to.

Aggression: Facilitating open conversations don't harbor negative or harsh emotions. Speaking aggressively leads to high tensions and defeats the purpose of candor. Aggressive communication can hurt others and result in broken relationships.

Finding the right time: There’s no such thing as the “perfect moment.” That only exists in movies. When it comes to candor, don't wait. It’s about immediacy and seeing the impact of that learning moment right away.

Candor is a compliment; it implies equality. It's how true friends talk.

– Peggy Noonan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

Personal criticism: Candor's definition targets the issue, not the person. Instead, focus on actionable feedback and brainstorm alternative methods to improve your peer's workflow.

Falsehood: Avoid suppressing or distorting the truth. The art of candor lies in open dialogue. Beating around the bush only harms a person's professional development. Remember: We believe everyone deserves feedback, but it should be clear, crisp, and candid feedback.


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