“Anyone can be accurate and even profound, but it is hard work to make a criticism charming.”~H.L. Mencken
If the primary goal of feedback is to help, and motivate, someone to change their behavior, it seems to me that the secondary goal of feedback is to make the feedback palatable and easy to take in. What good does what I have to tell you do if you can’t hear what I have to tell you?
I remind clients of this often. “He needs to know this,” they’ll say.
“How can you say it so that he can hear it?” I prompt them.
“She needs to understand,” they’ll mutter.
“How can you help them?” I ask.
If we can make criticism palatable, and even charming, we up our chances that the people we’re giving feedback to will hear it, understand it, and know it. And maybe even act on it. If we can find a way to say what we mean without saying it mean, then we lessen the risk that the person we’re speaking to will go into fight or flight, and shut us out completely.
How can you make criticism charming? Here are a few things to think about:
- Their perspective – What might they be seeing and experiencing? What might their viewpoint be? If you don’t know it, you can’t incorporate it.
- What matters to them – If you can highlight what’s in it for them if they take in your feedback, or what they’ll get from making the change, they’re more likely to hear you and act on what you say.
- What they might want from you – Life is give and take. So is feedback. Be willing to meet them halfway, help them if they need it, and offer support. Think of what they might want or need, and you’re more likely to get a positive response.
Feedback – and criticism – is necessary in work and life overall. But if we don’t make it easy for others to hear what we’re saying, we’re less likely to get the response we want.
How have you made your criticism charming?
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For support in being charming, contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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