Constructive Feedback Always Passes 3 Tests

There is nothing that causes more harm than words–thoughtless, inappropriate words.  The wrong words can destroy the relationships you have with your coworkers and destroy the business you have with your customers. 

Some people think there’s no need to worry about such things. All you have to do is tell the truth.  Afterall, honesty is the best policy. 

Well yes and no.  I would never advocate telling a lie, and I would never endorse gossip or flattery.  But plain old honesty can sometimes be harsh, brutal, or purposely used to hurt someone else. 

I suggest “intelligent honesty.”  In other words, before you give feedback to someone, or before you talk about someone, ask yourself three questions.  If you can answer “yes” to all three questions, I would say, “Go ahead, make your comments.” But if you answer “no” to any of the questions, shut up.  Don’t say anything. 

The first question to ask yourself is, “IS IT TRUE?”  In other words, what you are about to relay is not hunch, rumor, guess, or gossip.  You have the evidence; you know your comment is absolutely true.

Second, ask yourself, “IS IT NECESSARY?”  Sometimes people need to know their behavior is ineffective or inappropriate.  So talk to them, not about them.  At other times, your comment would not serve any useful purpose; so let it pass.

Finally, ask yourself, “IS IT KIND?”  You may be upset with someone else, but you don’t have to make your comment in a disrespectful manner.  You may want additional business with a particular customer, but you shouldn’t deceitfully flatter the customer to make the sale.  It’s not kind. 

Ask yourself these questions before you speak, and you’ll get in a lot less trouble and get a lot better results.

Key Point: Gossip is saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his face, and flattery is saying to his face what you would never say behind his back.