Doers prefer to tell the truth and expect others to be honest with them in return. More importantly, Doers expect coworkers to communicate bad news graciously and to offer criticism objectively. Timeliness is also a key factor. Waiting for the right moment, or putting it off until the recipient is in a good mood, just compounds the issue. Best to transfer the information while it is fresh and there is still time to rectify the situation.
Fact-based criticism contains important information that can be both useful and growth producing if the recipient does not personalize it. Yes, it sometimes hurts and you may feel some guilt or pain, but it is not about you. The less reactive you are to criticism, the more honest and direct people will be with you. Both factors are important elements in trust building. The challenge, then, is to encourage coworkers to offer up criticism without putting them through an uncomfortable or embarrassing process.
Criticism is simply the act of reviewing someone else’s work and providing him or her with your findings. No one likes how it feels to be criticized, but that does not mean it is without value.
The purpose in giving criticism is to achieve clarity and build trust, not to hurt someone’s feelings, but that may happen anyway. The trick is to keep trying until the recipient understands that the message is meant to be helpful, not harmful.
Crafting your message so that it carries no personal blame takes practice. Until you get used to this more direct way of communicating, it might help if you script your message by writing it down and repeating it several times out loud to yourself before you share it.
Here’s an example:
My intent in sharing this with you is to build our relationship and to help you understand what I need in the future, not to make you feel bad. I recognize that what I say may hurt your feelings, but I’m hopeful that feeling won’t last. I’m confident that our relationship will eventually reach a level where I don’t have to choose my words carefully to avoid hurt feelings. The sole intention of this communication is to clarify my expectations so that in the future we both get what we want.
Such a formal response may seem awkward, especially if you are not used to writing down what you plan to say before you say it. The fact that it is not like you demonstrates your willingness to try something new. It also confirms that you want to change the way things are—a crucial first step in getting your coworkers to take what you say seriously and to act upon it immediately.