“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Is this good advice?
I was in a house warming ceremony of my childhood friend. At the end of the meal (sadhya) one of my other friends who had arranged the Kerala sadhya meal asked for feedback. Out of the 6-people seated in the room only one gave feedback. I liked the way he went around all the dishes and “touched” (literally) each one of the dishes. He gave a very crisp and concise feedback. Once it came full ellipse (shape of plantain leaves instead of circle), my friend reiterated the feedback as he prepared to give it to the chef. It was a balanced one with good dishes getting complimented, bad ones mentioned as improvements. The environment was friendly and informal and it gave everyone a chance to take the feedback very sportingly. I stayed out of the feedback. I am not a sadhya expert, I was hungry and I enjoyed the food and my school friends’ company.
That was not the case when I was put on the spot couple of weeks back. Your friendship needs to be tested, that is what I always believe. It also takes a whole level of guts and I appreciate my friend for coming up and giving this feedback. It was a planned one-to-one feedback session or in other words “radical candor“.
The setting was a nice evening in an eco-friendly environment. We were perched on the top floor with two chairs facing each other. It was a well-planned session of candid conversation. I listened with rapt attention. My friend “dished out” the instances one by one where I could have behaved differently. In the sense, it was counter to what was expected of me. It was in an emotionally charged language. Also, there was a very direct salvo when my friend told me that “Look that gesture gave me an impression that you do not value that person”. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was vulnerable, no doubt. It stirred my emotions and the neurochemical concoction inside me.
I had two choices: “Disagree and Disconnect” or “Listen and Evince interest for more.” At the end of 1 hour I received 4 instances where I could have reacted in a different way. At that moment, I recollected all the instances and reflected. I was convinced that “What I did wrong then ” is ” Right for me now”. Also, one of the key learning for me was that “You will see the way you are” and this feedback gave me good inputs.
Practicing radical candour in a corporate setting was a different experience. Last week I had a 3-way conference call. In the call when we heard things “we do not want to hear ” it stirs up emotions. I started walking back and forth from the room to the balcony. I felt the discussion was getting too personal. That is when I had to use the filter of “Awareness and Acceptance”:
- “Awareness” came in the way of respecting everyone in the call and sharing that we all are entitled for our views. That really gave a good segue to steer the discussion with an apology
- “Acceptance ” of the mistake for me was the result of the call.
The key was to respect each other and dive deep into discussing actions we need to take to recover our position. In my view, the moment we were “aware” of each other and “accepted ” mistakes the steps become easy for the solution.
The above three instances of meal feedback (Group Setting – one to many), Radical candour (In person one to one) and Conference Call conversation (Virtual group many to many) gave me some insights.
How important is it to be open and answer these three questions on an ongoing basis?
- What is “right” with the wrong?
- Is everything bad about you “good” for you?
- How do you make the worst of you the “best” for you?
I figured out that the “meal feedback” came from the person who “just said what he thought” (Right) at that moment. That feedback was useful for my friend who is starting his entrepreneurial journey.
The one-to-one feedback for me was quick and it was challenging for my friend as well. Now I have started practicing those feedback seriously. I’ve also developed a (Good) feedback loop to constantly share and update the person.
The conference call result: we all got aligned to the next steps and it made all the team members move forward. The (Best) solution was worked out and it was a very practical solution that was implemented successfully.
So “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” became ” If you do have the right, good and best thing to say, do say it. Keep in mind not to forget to “touch” the emotions and “keep” the humanity intact.
When you want to “just say what you think” you should “just do it” as it shows how much you care.