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It can be hard to give negative feedback effectively. I think part of the difficulty has to do with our discomfort with difficult feelings and emotions. We don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and we don’t like it when other people feel uncomfortable either. So, we try to keep everything going smoothly. Giving someone negative feedback can be disruptive.

Avoiding Feedback

When it comes to feedback, we usually make one of two errors. On the one hand, we might fail to give negative feedback at all. We avoid it, because we don’t want to make the other person feel bad. The problem with this way of doing life is that we don’t give the other person the information they need to improve. The problem isn’t resolved. If you’re part of a business or organization, this can result in bad team morale. It can even negatively impact the bottom line.

Giving Harsh Feedback

On the other hand, we might get so fed up that we blast the other person with our negative feedback. We slam the person with our harsh feedback. We hurt the person with our tone, and put them on the defensive. They aren’t able to take in our feedback and improve, because they feel attacked and defensive.

Tell the Kind Truth

So, what’s the alternative? How can we navigate between these two problems? One thing to keep in mind that has been helpful for me is to tell the kind truth. There are two key aspects to this strategy:

  1. Tell the truth. First, you have to tell the truth. Withholding feedback doesn’t help anybody. You have to be honest with the person and tell the truth, even if it is difficult to hear. Remember, the overall goal is for the person to improve. To get better, they need all the information.
  2. Tell it kindlySecond, tell the truth in a kind way. Pay attention to your tone. Don’t be harsh—soften your tone of voice. Make the feedback about the issue. Don’t let your feedback devolve into a personal attack. Make sure you communicate that you care for the person, and have their best interests at heart.

Discussion

What do you think about telling the kind truth? Which of the two “pitfalls” do you tend to struggle with? Do you avoid giving feedback? Or do you give feedback in a harsh manner?

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