Telling People What to Do Doesn’t Work
The Radical Candor® approach — Caring Personally while Challenging Directly — can move you from a command-and-control culture to one of collaboration. Developed by Kim Scott, Radical Candor is a communication framework for specific and sincere praise and kind and clear criticism.
Why is something so simple so hard to do?
You’re told you have to be professional
Your entire working life you’ve been told to be professional. Too often, that’s code for leaving your humanity at home. To build strong relationships, you have to Care Personally.
This can be as simple as showing enough vulnerability to admit when you’re having a bad day, and creating a safe place for others to do the same.
“If you don’t have anything nice to say…”
Since you learned to talk you’ve likely been told some version of, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Then you become the boss and the very thing you’ve been taught not to do since you were 18 months old is suddenly your job.
In order to succeed, you have to Challenge Directly. Challenging people is often the best way to show you care. It does not mean that whatever you think is the truth; it means you share your (humble) opinions directly.
Need help overcoming these specific guidance and feedback challenges? We’ve got a suite of resources to help you get you started.
A compass for candid conversations
Because the Radical Candor approach can be hard to put into practice, we developed a simple feedback framework that you can keep top of mind in the heat of the moment.
Use the Radical Candor Framework to Guide Your Conversations
Understanding what is not Radical Candor can help you better understand what kind, clear, specific and sincere communication looks like. These behaviors that everyone falls into at one time or another are not personality types.
Remember that these phrases are not labels. Please don’t write people’s names in these boxes; use the framework as a compass to guide your conversations to a more productive place.
The Radical Candor Framework is a trademark of Radical Candor, LLC.
Obnoxious Aggression, also called brutal honesty or front stabbing, is what happens when you challenge someone directly, but don’t show you care about them personally. It’s praise that doesn’t feel sincere or criticism and feedback that isn’t delivered kindly.
Ruinous Empathy is what happens when you want to spare someone’s short-term feelings, so you don’t tell them something they need to know. You Care Personally, but fail to Challenge Directly. It’s praise that isn’t specific enough to help the person understand what was good, or criticism that is sugar-coated and unclear. Or simply silence. Ruinous Empathy may feel nice or safe, but is ultimately unhelpful and even damaging. This is a feedback fail.
Manipulative Insincerity — backstabbing, political or passive-aggressive behavior — is what happens when you neither Care Personally nor Challenge Directly. It’s praise that is insincere, flattery to a person’s face and harsh criticism behind their back. Often it’s a self-protective reaction to Obnoxious Aggression. This is the worst kind of feedback fail.
SAYING “IN THE SPIRIT OF RADICAL CANDOR” while acting like a jerk still means you’re acting like a jerk.
Build a Radically Candid culture
of Guidance and Feedback
Change is hard. We can help.
A Candor Coach will introduce key concepts, share their own stories, and provide tips and tactics to get you started on your Radical Candor journey.
Develop a shared vocabulary and practice Radical Candor's order of operations: solicit feedback, offer specific praise, and give criticism that’s kind and clear.
Laugh & Learn
The Feedback Loop program includes a workplace comedy starring David Alan Grier to help you develop a candid culture of effective feedback.