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Video Tip: Radically Candid Criticism is Immediate

Our goal is to help you improve your impromptu feedback. And that word “impromptu” is key. We think it’s extremely important to give feedback immediately, rather than saving it up for a scheduled meeting, or even worse, for an annual performance review. So today’s tip is that Radically Candid criticism is immediate. It’s easier to be specific when the details are fresh and it’s also more kind because it gives the person an opportunity to fix it faster.

In this video, Russ explains why you should give criticism immediately and shares some tips:

 

Read more tips in this article about giving immediate feedback or check out additional video tips.

Tips to Avoid Obnoxiously Aggressive Criticism

If you think you’ve given criticism that was Obnoxiously Aggressive, check out these tips for moving towards Radical Candor!

Criticize kindly

This doesn’t mean sugar coating. It means seeing your criticism as an act of kindness, meant to help the person improve. If others have rated your criticism as Obnoxiously Aggressive, you’re not showing that you Care Personally. Try to pause for just a moment and imagine the face of somebody you really care about. Bring the kindness you’d show that person to this conversation.

State your intentions

Try to offer a story about a time when you made a similar mistake, and show how somebody’s criticism helped you. Offer your criticism as a gift intended to help the person improve. Help them see it’s not a punishment intended to humiliate.

Criticize HUMBLY, expecting to be challenged and sometimes proven wrong

You want to offer CANDOR (“Here’s what I think, what do you think?”) not the TRUTH (“Here’s what I know, you don’t know shit from shinola!”)

Criticize IMMEDIATELY to keep it quick and light

Don’t save up criticism and then pile on a person in a 1:1 or a performance review. Small, quick course corrections are kinder and easier to take than a pile-on well after the fact.

Don’t hide from emotion

Often people avoid giving feedback in person because they are afraid of confronting the other person’s emotions. That’s a big mistake. Reacting to emotion with compassion is a good way to move up on the “Care Personally” axis.

Don’t “front-stab!”

To show you care personally, criticize IN PRIVATE, praise in public. It’s fine to debate or disagree in public, but when you are criticizing a person’s work or behavior, do it privately.

Don’t criticize personality

Don’t say “You’re wrong!” Instead say, “That’s wrong.” For bonus humble points, say, “I think that’s wrong, and here’s my rationale for why: [data point 1, fact 2, theory 3]”

Tips to Avoid Manipulatively Insincere Criticism

If you think you’ve given criticism that was Manipulatively Insincere, check out these tips for moving towards Radical Candor!

Criticize kindly and clearly

Just say what you really think. It’s not mean if it’s clear enough. If others have rated your criticism as Manipulatively Insincere, you’re not showing you care or challenging them directly enough. It’s hard to break free from the “if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say it at all” advice that was pounded into your head since you learned to talk. But now it’s not just your job to say it — it’s your moral obligation.

Don’t triangulate

If you have criticism for somebody, it’s helpful to tell the person directly, but really unhelpful to talk about the problem with others.

People almost always know what you think even if you don’t say it

When you are thinking one thing and saying another, it’s not kind, it’s confusing, and it erodes trust.

Unspoken criticism doesn’t age well

It sours over time. Remember that ex who’d bring up small things you did wrong six months ago? You don’t want to be THAT person.

Just say it, in person

It can feel risky to tell somebody what you think right to their face. But, saying in person “I think this is screwed up, and here are some ideas for how to fix it” is FAR safer than saying nothing and thinking, “you’re screwed up.” Be humble (“I think”) and focus on specifics, not attributes (“this,” not “you”), and be ready with ideas to help. Then, it’s not so risky.

Don’t “back-stab!”

Criticizing a person behind their back is much the same thing as using a bullhorn and doing it publicly, only worse. It’ll get back to them, and it will earn you the reputation for back-stabbing.

Focus on specifics not attributes

When people screw up, it doesn’t mean they are morons. It just means they screwed up. But when you think, “What a moron,” you are falling prey to the fundamental attribution error. If you are very clear about what went wrong, you’re more likely to be able to verbalize what’s bothering you in a way that is kind.

Tips to Avoid Ruinously Empathetic Criticism

If you think you’ve given criticism that was Ruinously Empathetic, check out these tips for moving towards Radical Candor!

Criticize clearly

Don’t try to spare people’s feelings by leaving out the details — that is not nice, it’s just unclear. If others have rated your criticism as Ruinously Empathetic, you’re not Challenging Directly enough. Try clearly explaining what you think directly to them.

Just say it!

When you don’t say it, you rob the person of a chance to fix what’s wrong, or to push back and convince you that actually YOU are wrong. Not saying it is unclear and unhelpful.

Criticism is not arrogant

When you challenge somebody, you expect them to challenge you back. When you say, I think that’s wrong, you give them a chance to prove to you that it’s actually right. If somebody disagrees with your criticism, it’s a good thing, not a bad thing.

Criticism has a short half life

Just say it right away. The longer you wait, the less clear you are because you remember fewer details about what actually happened.

Criticize IN PERSON

Don’t hide behind email or chat to avoid negative emotions. If somebody gets upset and starts to cry, it’s hard but it’s not the end of the world. Neither of you is water-soluble. If the person yells, it won’t kill you; if the person gets defensive, the fact you’ve already proven that you care will help you get through.

Criticize in private, debate in public

You would never criticize a person in public, and that’s a good thing. But you probably could do a little more disagreeing and debating in public.

Remember that telling people when something is wrong is not a personal attack

In fact, not telling somebody when they have spinach in their teeth is actually like saying: “You are not even capable of removing spinach from your teeth, so I won’t bother telling you it’s there.” When you are clear about something that is wrong, it is a gift, an act of kindness.

Video Tip: Radically Candid Praise is Immediate

Radically Candid praise is immediate. You’ll remember the specifics much better when you see something great and point it out right away.

At Candor, Inc. we of course think great feedback is extremely important, and so in addition to trying to help others improve their feedback, as a company we’re internally focused everyday on building a culture of great feedback, a culture of Radical Candor. We give feedback frequently and think about how it is received, both through in person conversations, like in one of our previous videos, and with the Candor Gauge.

In our video this week, Kim and Russ give tips about why immediate praise is important and how to do it, and they share an example of immediate praise here at Candor:

 

Read our longer blog post for more tips on giving immediate feedback.

Tips for Radically Candid Criticism

Giving criticism is hard! Check out these tips for offering Radical Candor:

About CriticismRadically Candid criticism is kind and clear

Easy to say, hard to do. Being kind means caring about what’s best for the person long term, not just what feels easiest right now. Being clear means leaving no room for interpretation about what you really think — while also being open to the possibility that your opinion is wrong.

Be helpful

When you are really clear about what’s wrong and why, you help the person fix the problem. Offer criticism in a spirit of helpfulness, even if you don’t have actual help to offer.

Be humble

Your ego is in check; you are always open to learning that what you think is dead wrong. You’re not just open to being wrong, you’re happy to be proven wrong. What you care about is helping others do the best work of their careers, and getting to the best answer.

Give criticism immediately

If somebody makes a mistake, you tell them right away. That’s more kind because pointing it out right away gives the person an opportunity to fix it faster, and it’s more clear because the details are fresh.

Deliver criticism in person

Remember, Radical Candor gets measured at the listener’s ear, not the talker’s mouth. Since 90% of communication is non verbal, it’s really hard to know if your criticism is Radically Candid — or not — if you can’t see how it lands. The only way to know if you’ve been kind and clear is to see how the other person is reacting.

Give criticism in private

Debates can happen in public, but if you’re criticizing a person, it’s much kinder to do it in private. It will also be more clear, because private criticism is much less likely to trigger a person’s defense mechanisms.

It’s not about personality

It’s saying, “I don’t think that’s true,” rather than, “You’re a liar!” People can’t alter their personality, so saying things like “You’re a jerk” or “You are sloppy” is neither kind nor helpful. And it’s almost always a flawed analysis of the situation.

Tips to Avoid Manipulatively Insincere Praise

If you think you’ve given praise that was Manipulatively Insincere, check out these tips for moving towards Radical Candor!

Praise specifically and sincerely

The more vague your praise is the less genuine it feels. If somebody has rated your praise as Manipulatively Insincere, you’re not showing you care or challenging them directly enough. Try saying “I like the way you ___” It’s hard to be non-specific after that opening. And when you’re precise about something you admire and why, your sincerity will shine through. If you try to sound sincere without the specifics, you’re likely to sound fake.

The more specific you are, the more helpful your praise is

Your praise is helpful because you’ve explained exactly what’s good and why; also, your sincerity shows through naturally.

It’s arrogant to think that people don’t sense what you really think

Offering praise that you don’t really mean will backfire. Try being more aware of the discrepancy between what you are saying and what you are thinking, and figuring out a productive way to say what you are really thinking.

Nobody likes a “shit sandwich”

Offer praise right away and only when something has genuinely impressed you; don’t save it up and then use it just to soften the blow of criticism.

Praise in person so you can notice if the person seems skeptical that you mean it

If so, offer more specific details about what was good and why it matters, and your sincerity will show through naturally.

Make sure your private statements don’t contradict what you say in public

Any discrepancies will come back to bite you!

Flattery will get you nowhere

Telling somebody “you are a genius,” is problematic for the same reason saying “you are a moron” is: it personalizes. Besides, people see through it.

Tips to Avoid Ruinously Empathetic Praise

If you think you’ve given praise that was Ruinously Empathetic, check out these tips for moving towards Radical Candor!

Praise Specifically

Just saying “good job” is not helpful, and saying, “you are great” can actually be counterproductive. If somebody has rated your praise as Ruinously Empathetic, you’re not challenging them enough. Try being specific enough to show how to build on the success.

Your job is not to be a cheerleader

It’s to offer praise that shows exactly what was great to help people know what to do more of. Focus on what specifically you admired about the work, not on trying to make people “feel good.” Don’t say, “You did great, you should feel happy!” Instead, say, “Your idea increased efficiency 45% by eliminating the grunt work we all hated to do. Your idea not only improved profits, it made our jobs more interesting. Here’s how to build on it.”

The more specific you can be about what you admire and why, the less likely your praise is to sound patronizing.

Vague praise like “good job” can sound arrogant. Stating “good job” implies you think you are the arbiter of what’s good and what’s not. Try saying “I admire the way you ___” Owning your opinions and explaining specifically why you think what you think demonstrates humility.

You won’t forget the details if you praise right away

The faster you praise something great after you see it, the easier it is to be specific enough for the praise to have real meaning.

Praise in person so you can notice if the person is brushing it off as meaningless

If so, get more specific. Usually, the praise will have more meaning. Sometimes, you’ll learn that you’re praising the wrong thing or the wrong person…

When praising publicly, the goal is both recognition AND learning

Be specific about what the person did, the impact, and the context so that the whole team learns. Don’t say, “Sal did a great job.” Instead say, “Sal came up with the idea for X and then got budget for it. As a result, you are all 85% more efficient. That means less grunt work and more time for cool projects for everyone. Thank you Sal!”

For the same reason you wouldn’t say, “You’re a dumbass!” don’t say, “You’re a genius!”

Instead be specific about what was good, why, and how to build on it. The reward for good work is more good work, not a pat on the shoulder.

Tips to Avoid Obnoxiously Aggressive Praise

If you think you’ve given praise that was Obnoxiously Aggressive, check out these tips for moving towards Radical Candor!

Praise Sincerely

Focus on the good stuff — but if you don’t mean it, don’t say it! If somebody has rated your praise as Obnoxiously Aggressive, you’re not showing that you really do Care Personally. When you see something you genuinely like, just say it!

Praise helps people turn great work into insanely great work

You’re not “babying people’s egos” when you praise them, you’re helping them and everyone else know what’s good, why, and how to do more of it.

You don’t have to eat humble pie to show you’re not arrogant

Just focus on the good stuff. When you see work you admire, speak up with the same energy you’d have when you see work that’s not good enough. When you admire other people’s work, they see that you know you don’t have all the answers.

Just say it!

When you see something great, the key is to point it out right away. It’s more clear that you are genuinely impressed when you say something right away. Look for moments in the day when something impresses you, and give those moments a voice. The 30 seconds you invest will help people look forward to what you have to say.

Praise in person so you can notice if the other person is surprised

If so, you’re not giving enough praise.

Praise in every public forum available

Praise in big meetings, in front of your boss, in front of the whole team. Follow up in email and reply-all! Write notes. They don’t always have to come from you. Make sure your boss knows about your team’s accomplishments, and notes them. Don’t dismiss recognition as babying egos; you’re doing it to help everyone learn. And the more you praise, the more open people are to your criticism.

Trying to soften criticism by starting with praise about personality just sounds insincere

Starting any sentence with phrases like, “I know you are a genius, but…” is not likely to be effective.

Give Immediate Feedback: Reminders and tips

Radically Candid praise and criticism is immediate. You’ll remember the specifics much better when you point something out right away, so you’ll be more clear with your feedback. You’ll also be more kind (and results oriented) because you’ll give the person the opportunity to repeat the good or fix the bad faster.

Continuing our tips and techniques for the HIP Approach, here are some reminders and practical suggestions for giving immediate feedback.

Feedback has a short half life

Remember, the benefits of feedback deteriorate quickly. If you wait to tell somebody for a week or a quarter, the incident is so far in the past that they can’t fix the problem or build on the triumph. Seize the moment immediately to get the most out of the feedback opportunity.

Waiting wastes brain cycles

If you wait too long to give feedback you’ll experience something like the following scenario. You’ll start to see things and think, oh I need to write that down so I can remember to tell so and so about such and such at some date in the future. Then, you need to remember to jot it down. Then when you finally do have time to write it down you’ll forget what it was and have to sit there trying to remember, and hating yourself for not jotting it down sooner. Then you need to keep track of where you jotted it down. Then you need to remember to schedule the meeting. And then before the meeting you need to find time to look at the list of random things you’ve been jotting down. They won’t really hang together and you’ll have a pretty random conversation. You won’t be able to use the “show don’t tell” and “situation behavior impact” tips for being helpful and humble because you won’t have written down enough details.

head-spinning

Then, you’ll start to see things. You’ll start to imagine that they already “got the message” and that you no longer need to give the feedback because they self-corrected. Just as you start to relax because of your self-correcting team, BAM, the subject of the original feedback reemerges, and you’re back to square one.

Unspoken feedback will start to take up more and more of your mental space. It will feel like a “dreaded list” of things you don’t want to say to your employees, but know you “should” say. It will feel daunting and exhausting, instead of productive and kind.

But there’s no reason to waste all those brain cycles. It’s much more effective and less burdensome to just say it right away!

Unspoken criticism goes critical like a dirty bomb

If you stay silent about something that’s wrong for a long time, you are likely to get more frustrated or furious or both. The longer the problem goes unfixed, the more likely you are to blow up in a way that makes you look irrational, harms your relationship, or both. Don’t let this happen to you. Just say it right away!

3 actionable tips for getting better at immediate feedback

Say it in 2-3 minutes between meetings

When I teach workshops on Radical Candor, the single most common question people ask is, “How do I find the time?” People worry that trying to give more impromptu feedback will take them a lot of extra time. They think it’s an hour-long conversation they need to schedule. They think giving good feedback is going to add hours of meetings to each week.

It shouldn’t. If you give praise and criticism immediately, it really won’t take too much time.

Impromptu feedback is something you can squeeze in between meetings in 3 minutes or less. Truly. The best feedback I’ve gotten in my life generally happened in super-quick conversations between meetings, or standing waiting for a light to change. Giving impromptu feedback is more like using a toothpick than getting a root canal. Don’t schedule it. Just do it consistently and immediately when it’s needed, and maybe you won’t ever have to get a root canal.

root-canal

Keep slack time in your calendar; or, be willing to be late

Giving more impromptu feedback does take discipline. Prioritizing something generally means making time in your calendar for it. But how do you immediately make time in your calendar for something that is impromptu? You can’t, but there are a couple of ways around this.

In order to give immediate, impromptu feedback, you must do one of two things.

  • Keep slack time in your calendar, either by not scheduling back to back meetings, or by having 25 and 50 minute meetings, not 30 and 60 minute meetings.
  • Be willing to be late.

If you can possibly help it, don’t schedule meetings back to back. I learned one technique, that I admired but couldn’t implement, from Qualtrics co-founder Jared Smith. When I worked with him at Juice and Google, the first thing he did each morning was look at his calendar and cancel at least one meeting. If avoiding back to back meetings is impossible for you, just schedule all the 30-minute meetings you own as 25 minute meetings, and all the hour-long meetings as 50-minute meetings. Encourage others to do the same, and be disciplined enough to keep meetings on schedule.

calendar

If neither of these is an option for you, you’re simply going to have to be late to some meetings. In many cases, it’s more important to give impromptu feedback to somebody who works for you than it is to be on time to your next meeting. When I’m leading a team, I am always scheduled within an inch of my life, so giving immediate feedback always meant making a lot of little impromptu adjustments to my schedule — ie, being late.

You’re going to have to apologize to people for being late and then do some real-time prioritization when you finally do arrive at your next meeting. We think this is a good tradeoff.

Don’t save up feedback for a 1:1 or a performance review

One of the funniest things about becoming a boss is that it causes an awful lot of people to forget everything they know about how to relate to other people. If you have a beef with somebody in your personal life, it would never occur to you to wait for a formally scheduled meeting to tell them — you’d just say it right away. If you were impressed by something somebody in your personal life did, you wouldn’t wait for a formal performance review to mention it — you’d just say it right away. Yet, when you become a manager, it’s too easy to throw everything you know about how important impromptu communication is to having a productive relationship out the window.

All too often, bosses forget about ordinary communication and rely instead on all the formal processes, such as 1:1 meetings, annual or bi-annual performance reviews, or employee happiness surveys. Ironically, these processes were put in place to reinforce ordinary communication. But if you let them substitute for impromptu feedback, they do more harm than good.

Don’t lose the opportunity to give immediate feedback because of the formal processes of your organization. Catch yourself if you find you’re making a mental note for a future feedback opportunity. Just say it right away!

 

What are your challenges with giving immediate feedback? Do you have your own reminders and tips?

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