Don’t soften the content. Soften the delivery.

Many people think that we need to soften the content in a conversation for the other person to be able to receive it.  That is, I should talk around the issue so it’s not too confronting.

It’s not true.

It creates unclear messages to the other person.  When the content is hidden under a rock, you are telling the other person they are responsible for finding the point.  They are not.  You are.

Learning to deliver the content in a respectful way yet say what we need to say, is actually easier than you think.

Think of someone who has a command and control tone of voice.  They probably sound gruff, accusatory and often louder than they need to be. Now how would they say this?

“You need to be aware that your colleagues struggle with your communication style and how you collaborate with them”

Compare this to someone with a respectful and collaborative tone.  They sound more inquisitive and are calm in their conversation.

“You may not be aware that your colleagues struggle with your communication style and how you collaborate with them”

The content remains mostly the same.  Yet the voice, tone and intent of the person changes.

When we are delivering feedback or having tough conversations the best thing you can do is stay true to the content.  Yet make sure the intent is in the right place. 

If you’re intent is to help the person be a better version of themselves, improve their performance or work better with their colleagues.  They will hear this.

If your intent is to accuse them of something, to show them you are right and they are wrong or to show them that you know better.  It will sound like it.

The content should remain the same when it is constructive – helpful and with examples.  Your intent will soften the delivery so it is heard and received with the grace and candour it was given.

So check your content before you deliver feedback and check yourself.  Do you have good intentions?  Then you are doing the right thing and the conversation is so much easier for both parties.

Give it a try.  You’ll see the difference straight away.

If you want to know more about how to deliver feedback or have tough conversations, get yourself a copy of Fixing Feedback or subscribe to Georgia’s blogs.