The Art of Being Direct

Feedback Criticism Talent_managementHave you ever held back from providing insight because you were afraid of how the news might be received?  It’s wise to think twice about delivery.  After all, communication is more about the perceived message than it is about the actual words of the speaker.  Reframing can shift an awkward message into a powerful opportunity for growth.

Feedback versus criticism

This is an important concept for managers to grasp: Feedback builds awareness and skills whereas criticism is judgmental and points out faults.  Before you deliver your message try future pacing it as a method of reframing.  Read the sentences below and ask yourself which would be more effective.

Criticism model (looks back, points out faults):

Great sale but too bad you forgot to ask the customer about an extended warranty on the new product.  We’re supposed to end all our sales conversations with an offer.

Feedback model (forward looking, builds skills):

Great sale.  What parts do you want to repeat with your next customer and what would you want to do differently?

Receiving criticism with grace

What if you’re on the receiving end?  Take a deep breath.  Don’t become angry or defensive — you’ll miss the salient points of the message and may alienate the speaker.  Listen for something you can learn from and thank the critic.

2 Replies to “The Art of Being Direct”

  1. Great succinct feedback. I’d like to see more on this topic with additional examples of re-phrasing. (so when are you writing your first book?) 🙂 I’d like to add to this concept by pointing out that sometimes constructive criticism can signal a cultural-environmental mismatch. The art is in knowing when the feedback is contextually and personnaly appropriate and if applying the feedback will allow you to maintain you alignment with your personal and professional goals and ethics. While we all need to learn the art of flexing our styles and approaches to different situations, there are bound to be times when the required change just doesn’t fit. For example, if you are asked to tone-down a strong and direct style, you might consider asking more questions as an alternative to making definitive statements. If, however, you find that no matter the technique, your style isn’t fitting, it may be time to look at the environment and culture in comparison to your personal and professional goals, styles and strengths.


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