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Don’t get angry, but …

By March 6, 2018Uncategorized

Telling someone their behaviour left you feeling disappointed/upset/frustrated is tough.

And we make it tougher by doing two things incorrectly:

#1: Commenting on their character and not their behaviour

That made you look inconsiderate vs You’re an inconsiderate person

#2: Suggesting their responsible for your feelings

You made me feel frustrated vs Your actions left me feeling frustrated

But that’s if we ever get to the point of giving this feedback in the first place.

Most people avoid it – or don’t realise they must say something – because they don’t want to upset the other person.

In a minute, I’ll share a script you can use to structure feedback to minimise anyone getting upset.

But first, I hop on over and watch this video.

The intro story is about how Sheryl Sandberg gave some pretty harsh feedback to the speaker (I’m not sure most people would use the words she used).

As a leader, your responsibility isn’t to be nice to your employees all the time.

Nice here means agreeable, wanting to be liked, and praising more than criticising.

Part of being nice, and the responsibility of a leader, is to want the best for your team.

And this means giving tough feedback that can be used to improve performance and behaviour.

Your success comes from the success of your team. So why wouldn’t you constructively criticise them to help them do better?

Here’s what most people tell me when I deliver training on how to give feedback and handle conflict:

I didn’t know the right time or place to give the feedback – waiting for an annual review seems pointless

I don’t know what to say

I don’t want to upset them

Let’s look at each in turn.


**flicks over flipchart paper**


I didn’t know the right time or place to give the feedback

Praise happens in public. Criticism happens in private.

Either wait for a 1-1 meeting, or ask the person to join you for a break.

Better yet – go for a walk. The forward motion of walking acts as a metaphor and leaves both people open to resolution in ways sitting in chairs simply doesn’t.

There’s no right time per se, but pick a time that’s not too far into the future. A time when you’ve had a moment to prepare for how you’ll give the feedback, and the incident is fresh in both your minds.

I don’t know what to say

When you think about the difficult feedback you want to give, what feelings arise?

The desire to not rock the boat and upset someone? Concern on how to handle a response from the other person of becoming frustrated, or worse? To avoid feeling bad about yourself?

It’s these feelings that arise when we don’t know what to say …because we don’t want to be sucked into an argument, or wiping up tears – we just want to get on with our jobs and get on with each other.

The first thing to be clear on is your objective.

What result do you want from the conversation? What would you like the other person to understand or do differently? What responsibility do you have?

Once you’re clear on the objective, you’re ready to prepare what you’ll say.

That’s where scripts come in handy. I’ll share one with you in a moment.

I don’t want to upset them

There’s freedom in know what’s in your control.

When you’re giving difficult feedback – what’s in your control?

Your thoughts, feelings, and behaviour.

Nothing else.

How the person reacts isn’t in your control. What you say, and how you say it, is.

So if you’re giving feedback in the most respectful way possible, the other person’s reaction isn’t your responsibility.

Now that we’ve looked at why people avoid giving difficult feedback, here’s a script you can use in those times when you want to tell someone about how you felt after something they did.


  1. Explain the facts: What happened specifically? What was said or done that cannot be disputed?
  2. Describe how you felt: Were you frustrated or upset? Did you feel ignored or disrespected? Be vulnerable here, and be honest
  3. What followed: As a result of these feelings, what did you do?
  4. If it happens again: How would you prefer to be treated next time?


Here’s the script in action:

Anna, during the meeting this morning, you ignored my suggestions twice. First when I suggested X, and second when I suggested Y. You ignored me by not allowing me to finish what I was saying, and asked James for his thoughts instead.

Because of this, I felt like my input wasn’t important and I felt unimportant.

As a result, I shut down and checked out of the meeting. I wasn’t able to add the kind of value I’d hoped to add.

During the next meeting, what I would like you to do is to acknowledge my input by letting me know if it was valuable or not. This will help me feel acknowledged, and improve what I say so that I’m adding value where it’s needed.


This script does two things.

First, it takes blame off the table. And second, it focuses on behaviour, not character.

What if you notice a behaviour in a member of your team that you want them to change but it isn’t frustrating or upsetting you?

Bonus time!

Here’s a script for those moments when you’ve noticed your team doing something you want them to improve on:


  1. Explain the facts: What specifically happened – describe it
  2. Describe the impact: How did this behaviour appear on the outside?
  3. Suggest an improvement: What can they do differently? What benefit will this have?
  4. Ask for their thoughts: How will they take this forward?


Here’s the script in action:

Kim, I sat in on your presentation this morning and noticed something you do when you speak that I think can be improved upon. You say um a lot, and you say it after about every third word.

From a listeners perspective, this makes you appear nervous or unsure of what you’re saying. It’s also quite distracting and takes impact away from your words.

How about we hire a speech coach to help improve this? Or you could record yourself speaking and practice a few times so you take the ums out? I think it would go a long way in you being taken seriously when you give those presentations, and you’ll appear more polished.

What do you think?


This script is powerful because it not only focuses on behaviour, but highlights why the improvement or change is a good thing. It shows the recipient the benefit of changing their behaviour, and makes clear that you want to help them do better.

I’m curious: What ideas do you have to add on how to respectfully give difficult feedback?




What to do now?

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