“Hi X, please sit down. Thank you for this report, but it needs a bit of a tweak. My helpful and brilliant suggestions are here, can I have it back on the desk of my enormous office ASAP?” This is the first fantasy version of this conversation. And then things take a darker turn and you imagine it this way:
And it being 3am you then sit in this hell loop for the next 3 hours, having the fantastical fight over and over again, ‘You can’t handle the truth’, until you drag your sorry carcass out of bed and into the office to attempt *the conversation* while over-caffeinated and genuinely traumatised.
Why is it that even a fantasy fight feels so unbelievably precarious these days? As teenagers the fantasy bust-ups were almost fun – we were so tough in our heads and our combat pants, endlessly slaying adversaries with our imagined withering put-downs. Now the outcome of the fantasy fight is always abandonment. The pre-drawn conclusion is that someone is going to get up and leave forever.
Can we risk a confrontation? Will it go the way we planned? Should we even be planning? Maybe we will just say nothing. Reduced to seething inwardly. Tip-toeing around situations we feel uncomfortable in, scared to be the bitch or bossy.
Well if you do find yourself in one of those *situations* here are four thoughts on how to give criticism:
- Say it face to face. Yes an email is tempting. No it is not helpful – easily misinterpreted and a bit cowardly. Are you that person? No.
- Easy on the ‘buts’. If you must ‘but’ put the bad stuff first. “This is not working yet but it will be brilliant.” There is a theory that ‘but’ cancels out everything what precedes it.
- Push the positive. Offer helpful suggestions: clear examples of how to make things work, try to avoid negging.
- Practice. And no we don’t mean in the shower/3am zone. With an actual real life friend. I know. Exhausting.