Radical Candor™ is the ability to Challenge Directly and show you Care Personally at the same time. Radical Candor will help you and all the people you work with do the best work of your lives and build the best relationships of your career.

Radical Candor really just means saying what you think while also giving a damn about the person you’re saying it to. Why is it so rare that such a simple thing feels radical? At Candor, Inc. we are building a set of tools that make it much easier to be Radically Candid.

Watch co-founder Kim Scott’s presentation on Radical Candor from First Round Review CEO Summit:

Why Radical Candor is an “unnatural act”

The reason Radical Candor is rare in feedback (praise and criticism) is that criticizing people can feel brutal, and praising them can feel patronizing.

Two nearly universal experiences make Radical Candor unnatural. One, most people have been told since they learned to talk some version of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” When they become a boss, the very thing they have been taught not to do since they were 18 months old is suddenly their job.

Furthermore, most people, since they got their first job, have been told to be “professional.” Too often, that’s code for leaving your humanity at home. But to give praise and criticism effectively, you have to Care Personally. You have to bring your whole self to work.

Making the unnatural feel more natural

Because Radical Candor is an “unnatural act” we developed a framework that would be simple enough that you can keep it top of mind in the heat of the moment. This 2×2 is a tool that you can use to guide your interactions and to help you gauge feedback — praise and criticism.

One of the best ways to make Radical Candor easier is to remember what happens when you fail to Care Personally and Challenge Directly. We’ve named the quadrants colorfully to help you remember to move toward Radical Candor, but it’s key to remember that these are not labels for people; they refer to a particular interaction or behavior. Ultimately, everyone spends some time in each of the quadrants, and that’s ok.

Obnoxious Aggression™ is what happens when you challenge but don’t care. It’s praise that doesn’t feel sincere or criticism that isn’t delivered kindly.

Ruinous Empathy™ is what happens when you care but don’t challenge. It’s praise that isn’t specific enough to help the person understand what was good or criticism that is sugarcoated and unclear.

Manipulative Insincerity™ is what happens when you neither care nor challenge. It’s praise that is non-specific and insincere or criticism that is neither clear nor kind.

Read stories and examples to better understand each of these quadrants.

How to get started with Radical Candor

Creating a culture of Radical Candor on your team (and in your life) greatly boosts your relationships and experiences with those around you. We recommend starting to build trust and feedback habits with these steps:

  1. Get feedback from others — set an example of being receptive to and appreciative of feedback
  2. Give feedback and Gauge feedback — Challenge Directly and Show that you Care Personally. Use our HIP approach to achieve Radical Candor, and make sure to find out how your feedback feels to the person receiving it.
  3. Encourage feedback — Create processes that allow others to feel comfortable voicing their feedback between themselves.

Learn more about each of these steps in the advice columns and articles on our blog.

Companies who believe in the power of Radical Candor:


Why the Radical Candor Framework works

Radical Candor seems simple. The reason that it resonates is that people often have not previously reconciled that Caring Personally and Challenging Directly can not only co-exist, but also that Challenging Directly is often the kindest thing you can do for someone.

Feedback has two parts: Praise and Criticism.

When giving criticism, you, like most of us, probably fear being Obnoxiously Aggressive, so you tend to retreat to Ruinous Empathy. But when getting criticism most people would rather hear it straight. When you see that people prefer to hear it straight, it becomes much easier to “just say it!” Of course, sometimes, you really are obnoxious without realizing it. When you see how others perceive your criticism, you’ll probably make a change automatically. We have quick tips, stories and advice articles to help, too.

Praise works the same way. When you praise others to be “nice” or to try make them feel good, it comes across as Ruinous Empathy or Manipulative Insincerity. When you see that others perceive your praise as hollow, you’ll naturally start praising in a way that is more specific and sincere, and therefore helpful.

Read more about Radical Candor on our blog, or order the book!

Radical Candor, the book, comes out on March 14th! Order your copy now