How To Criticize or Tell Someone A Truth

Enjoy the Podcast or the Written Word (transcribed)

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Most people, when hearing something critical do the very normal thing of becoming defensive.  It doesn’t matter how gently you tell someone something — when you’re pointing out that something is wrong, our natural instinct as humans is to defend ourselves.

I got an email from this wonderful person on my LinkedIn page the other day and she was criticizing a picture that I had posted and my first thought was to explain it:  Why I liked the picture so much, that it was a picture that was taken in between two posed pictures by the photographer – I was coming up with all these defensive explanations even though I didn’t need to.

So, knowing this, that none of us like to be told that we did something wrong, or to be criticized, I started thinking about how we speak to each other.  How we can do a better job of finding the right tone and the right way to help people.  And that’s the first key.

This persons email on LinkedIn, was all about me.  It wasn’t about her being right –  she wasn’t trying to be righteous or trying to be better than me.  She was genuinely coming from a place of trying to help me be the best possible ME I could be.  And I think that’s the first important thing to understand when you go to tell someone the truth or when you go to criticize someone:  make sure that the reason why you’re doing it is because you’re trying to help someone else and that it’s not about you at all.

The next thing to remember is to always put yourself in that persons shoes.  How do you best take criticism?   Think about that.  We’re all naturally defensive.  So when you have to hear something that you don’t want to hear, how would it best be relayed to you?  Probably from a very nurturing point of view?  Loving point of view? A kind point of view?  So always put yourself in that persons shoes first.

The other thing that I think is important is tone.  Tone, whether written, or texting or verbally, is extremely important.  If you are in attack mode, that’s how someone’s going to take it. They are going to be even more defensive.  But if you come to it from a place of concern, of kindliness, lovingness, you can hear that in someone’s tone, people tend to take things much easier when you have the right soothing or comforting tone. It’s definitely a skill.  But once you master it, it becomes so much easier to tell people the truth.

Another trick that I use – and I will call it a trick – maybe a strategy is a better way to say it – if I need to tell someone a truth, I always try to first tell them something complimentary.   But it has to be genuine and authentic.  It’s kind of a way to ease yourself into telling someone the truth.  I’ll give you a frivolous example:

I had a friend come over the other night and we were going out and she was dressed very provocatively.  And the shirt she was wearing was just not working for her.  She was going for sexy, but it was definitely coming across more like slutty.  She asked me what I thought of her outfit and I told her the truth. I said, “You know what?  I love what you’re going for – I love the skirt, the shoes are awesome.  But I’m not sure the blouse is the best because it’s taking away from those fabulous legs of yours…”  And she understood.  She got it.  And so she changed the shirt.  The point is, always find a complimentary way to ease yourself into the truth telling.  And it should be authentic and it should be genuine.  And I really did believe her shoes were amazing and she does have the best legs ever!

So the next time you’re in a position of needing to tell someone the truth, make sure you’re coming to it from a place that’s about them and not about you.  Come to it from a nurturing, loving, kind place to help them be the best possible person they can be.  And it’s never about you being right.  Or about you winning.  And if you do that, you’ll always strike the right tone.

By the way, I did change my picture on My LinkedIn Page because of this woman’s email.  She was right.  And I was able to take her criticism and make a better decision.

I hope this helps.  Thank you again for stopping by.  I hope to be back real soon.

In the meantime, have a sweet day!

Carmen

*Music by Chris Zabriskie, Prelude No. 23, Licensed by Creative Commons 

6 thoughts on “How To Criticize or Tell Someone A Truth

  1. Sometimes what we post has our personal emotions attached to it and it might not be the most professional or right ‘face’ to put forward. I had a conversation with a young man about his Twitter account – he’s an Eagle Scout and aspiring football player and I’m a assistant scoutmaster and webmaster – I told him some of his tweets were edgy and he blocked me and the troop from his Twitter acct. I had my son check and he’s still tweeting and posting sketchy stuff – he didn’t want to hear that he was edgy and it does hurt his marketability as a possible recruit. Anyway, you are right it takes a special ear to take criticism and act on it. Nice post. Have a wonderful week.

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    • Thank you. You know, you can only do what you can do to help someone. And sometimes people are also just not ready to hear what they need to hear. I like the word “edgy” — I think that puts a nice soft touch to things. The interesting thing is, he’ll eventually figure it out. If he’s someone you took time out to chat with about this, then he’s clearly smart enough — but yes, timing is also a factor. Thanks Clay!

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  2. I loved this, Carmen. You bring up some really good points and you also have such a sweet, rich voice. I find that it is harder to give constructive criticism via email or online or texting, simply because it is so easy to misunderstand each other. btw… I looked at your linkedin and saw the new picture. Very nice. 🙂

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    • Kev, thank you — I love hearing that my voice sounds so different than I actually hear it! And I agree, it is harder to give constructive criticism via all written forms. You’re exactly right! Glad you stopped by. 😉

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