Ever noticed that the people who preach “thick skins” the loudest tend to be the most sensitive to the slightest offense? Everyone says they want completely honest feedback…until they get it. Then they shift into full defensive mode.
Sharing legitimate concerns always takes a certain skill, but many circumstances take unusual care to get the best outcome. Correcting colleagues is different than redirecting reports. Standing up to your supervisor without coming across as a complainer. Discussing a need for another group to change when your house isn’t completely in order.
Critical conversations should function like negotiations with a clear goal in mind and collaborative spirit. Three fundamental tools make it easier: “Tell me more…” to get them talking, “That makes sense…” to show endorsement and “What would you do?” to find agreeable solutions. Whoever speaks the least gets listened to the most.