As a Doer your purpose in offering criticism – constructive or otherwise – is to achieve clarity and build trust, not to hurt the other person’s feelings. But that may happen anyway especially if that person has not invited your comments or has not been open to your feedback in the past.
Early attempts to be open and honest may not produce what you expect. Hence your challenge is to keep trying until the recipient understands that your intention is to be helpful, not harmful.
Engaging someone in a conversation that is both long enough and deep enough to fully impart your concerns is difficult, but doable. The key to your success is to determine which of the following paths will get you to where you want to be at the end of the conversation:
Empathetic – conveys that you understand how the other person feels because you feel or have felt that way yourself. This path gives you the ability to connect on an emotional level. It shows that you have insights to share and are seeking a deeper exploration of the issues impacting the relationship. This path also serves to open up communications with a disgruntled person who’ll be pleased to know you accept his or her point of view, but may not be ready to accept yours.
Sympathetic – implies that you accept how the other person feels, but you don’t feel or have not felt that way yourself. Use this path in situations where you truly want to understand someone’s intentions and are trying to comprehend how that person feels even though you may disagree once you know. This path is not as useful with hostile or angry people because they’re less likely to understand their own feelings. All is not lost though; it could be a good beginning. Having their feelings acknowledged and not being the focus of blame could open up this path in the future.
Apathetic – indicates that you don’t know how the other person feels and don’t wish to share how you feel either. This path works best with people who care more about their own success than they do about yours. That being the case, you might as well make your point without regard to the other person’s argument. This path demonstrates that all you want is acceptance of your position. It also makes it clear to him or her that you’ll keep coming back until you get what you need.
Formulaic strategies such as this may seem awkward to you and most likely to those on the receiving end, also. The fact that it is not like you demonstrates your willingness to try something new. It also confirms that you are serious about changing the way things are—a crucial first step in getting people to take what you say seriously.