Honesty, Without Caring, Is Abuse

Rebecca Morgan quote
Photo: Rebecca Morgan, Red Lotus Lake, Udon Thani, Thailand


Nearly everyone I’ve known has said they want honest feedback on areas they can improve.

Hearing this, some perceive it as an invitation to be mean. Sometimes really mean. Insulting. Demeaning. Humiliating.


No matter how much we say we want honest, blunt feedback, nearly everyone appreciates receiving constructive criticism couched in a way that doesn’t leave the receiver feeling bullied or wounded. Verbal abuse often has long-lasting affects — sometimes for decades.

As the feedback giver, think about how you want the person to feel afterwards. Even if you can stomach blunt feedback, not everyone can. Even if they say they can. feelings of inadequacy can linger long after the interaction.  Harsh words echo in the receiver’s ears.

When you care about the receiver, you carefully choose your words and tone. You select neutral words, not inflammatory ones. Instead of “You really screwed up,” you say, “I know this task is difficult. Few people do it well at first. Let’s go over the procedure again so you do even better next time.”

Is this coddling? Too namby-pamby? For a few people, yes. For many, it allows them to keep their dignity intact while knowing how to do better.

Before you open your mouth or put fingers to the keyboard to offer honest feedback, pause and ask yourself how you can show caring in your communication. The receiver may not express their appreciation for your efforts, but you’ll know you’ve raised your level of communication and kept the relationship undamaged.