Kim Scott Radical Candor podcast

Podcast Episode 3: Ruinous Empathy and Praise

Have you ever received praise that made it feel like you were just getting a pat on the head? Or have you ever given someone praise because you wanted them to like you? This episode is for you! This week on the Radical Candor podcast: Ruinous Empathy and praise, with special guest, Dick Costolo!

Listen to the episode now:

In this episode

We’re so excited this week to have Dick Costolo as our guest on the podcast. Dick is the former CEO of Twitter. He had an enormous impact on the business at Twitter and proved himself to be an amazing boss in the process.

This episode of Radical Candor is about Ruinous Empathy. In the Radical Candor 2×2, Ruinous Empathy is when you show you Care Personally, but don’t Challenge Directly.

Podcast Episode 3: Ruinous Empathy and Praise Russ, Kim, and Dick tell stories about Ruinous Empathy, about “trying to be too nice,” and the mistakes they’ve made when giving praise. As Dick says,

Managing by trying to be liked is the path to ruin.

They talk about common pitfalls when giving praise, especially the tendency to think that the purpose of praise is to make people feel good.

And of course, the episode ends with specific tips that you can put into practice right away.

This Week’s Candor Checklist

Tip 1: Spend just as much time preparing to praise as you do preparing to criticize.

Tip 2: Make sure that your praise clearly identifies both what was good and why it was good.

Tip 3: If you don’t mean it, don’t say it.

Make sure to listen to the episode for the full explanation of these tips.

Related Links

Trying to remember the resources mentioned in the episode? We’ve got you covered:

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I am a huge fan of your Radical Candor approach since I stumbled across the initial article / blog a year ago! It was very eye-opening for me because I was on a journey from the Ruinous Empathy camp to being able to confront directly / worry less about being liked. The blog crystallized things for me and reinforced my trajectory by helping me see that you need both caring about someone and confronting directly to be effective and valuable as their manager. This podcast is helping me up my game, and I can’t wait to read the book!

    Some feedback on this episode for you:

    *I was left feeling a little bit confused.*

    This episode’s candor checklist states that one should spend as much time preparing to praise someone as you would for delivering criticism. This is a great point and I recognized its Truth as soon as you said it. However, this implies that one should spend time preparing for giving feedback when you’ve also made the point that it is crucial to try to give praise/feedback in the moment. In fact, I can see right above this comment box the link to the video tip, “Radically Candid Praise is Immediate”. You touched on spontaneous praise during the conversation with your guest this week. So, as a reasonably intelligent person, I can apply the advice to the proper circumstance, and maybe I missed where you explained this, but I was expecting you to give advice to when to prepare your praise vs. deliver it in the moment.



    p.s. I discovered this podcast through listening to Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast. I had thought the initial article from ~ Dec 2015 was all there was, so now I’m devouring all the additional content and have subscribed to the podcast!

    1. Aaron,

      Thank you for pointing out the inconsistency!! You are exactly right. We should have been more clear, and not made it sound so much like a research project!!

      In the case of Dick praising Dan–he’d happened to have had a conversation with Dan the night before. He’d praised him, without asking too many questions. A simple, wow, this is awesome who else worked on it would have sufficed. (If he’d thought Dan was screwing up, he would have asked more questions.) Then, the next morning at the all hands, he would have had those names top of mind.

      Also, in an ideal world you give praise and criticism immediately, in the moment. When you do that there’s not much research or preparation required. You see something, you say something, and most of the context and details are affixed to the moment.

      However, the world is rarely ideal. Too often we fail to give criticism in the moment. We let it build up. So then in order to give it we have to stop and remember the context and the details. And then we throw in a little dose of praise like a spoon full of sugar that helps the medicine go down. That’s sub optimal. When you’re in a “feedback deficit,” spend just as much time dredging your mind for specific things to praise as for specific things to criticize.

      Does this make sense?


      1. It does make sense, and thank you for taking the time to craft such a thoughtful reply!

        You’d think giving praise would be the easy part of the job, but I’m finding that it is something I need to think about and practice. Hopefully over time, I will improve to where it comes naturally for me.

        Thanks again,


    2. Aaron – I agree with Kim, and will add just a bit.

      We’re trying to nudge people to build a feedback habit, quick bursts immediately following the event that requires feedback, meaning within minutes. ‘Preparation’ in that context, might include jotting just a few notes down in your notebook to capture Situation, Behavior, Impact (SBI from CCL) or Situation, Work, Impact (SWI from… us!) to make the ensuing conversation structured and clear. It might even be sufficient simply to make mental notes. All we’re saying is “don’t wing it, be thoughtful.” Sounds like that could be the chorus to that old Bobby McFerrin song, eh?

      We run a workshop for companies to teach them how to Get, Give, and Encourage better feedback, and the final exercise is called the Feedback Triangle. It’s awesome and intense. Participants role play giving and receiving tough, real-world feedback. To prepare, we ask all participants to write down two things:

      1. a specific piece of feedback they know they should be giving to someone, but aren’t (time, forgetfulness, avoiding conflict)
      2. their objective for the feedback – what they hope to achieve

      I always say to our customers that “the pre-work should take no more than 10-15 minutes.” Hopefully, this gives you further idea on what we mean by “preparation” in the context of immediate feedback.

      For most of us, though, it would be a huge improvement to start giving feedback days, weeks, or even months earlier than normal. Meaning, giving feedback within even 7 days of an event is certainly more “immediate” than giving feedback 4 months after the event. Giving feedback 1 day after an event rather than 1 month is roughly 30x more immediate, and of course in all of those cases, you have plenty of time to prepare.

      Thanks so much for reaching out and glad you are finding value in the podcast. Also, thanks for helping us sharpen our communication on this and catching the inconsistency.


  2. Can you please share where the shows notes are located? We are having problems locating the shows notes. Thank You

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