In the previous piece, we spoke about appreciating those who are prepared to tell us the hard and uncomfortable truths we need to hear. Subsequently, many persons identified themselves as the “brutally honest” friend.

While many persons have the best intentions when giving the gift of the truth to others, often times the recipient gets distracted by the wrapping. The right message can be said in the wrong way. Consider my encounter with a doorman in Colombia as an example.

The Encounter with the Colombian Doorman

Several years ago, I was staying in an apartment complex in Bogota which had doormen on duty around the clock. In trying to become familiar with the doormen as well as practice my Spanish, I engaged in small conversations with the doormen as I came and went. This was hard as both my Spanish and their English were extremely limited. But I was there to learn THEIR language, so I welcomed the challenge.

One day, on the way to get some snacks, I walked past one of the doormen and attempted to tell him, in Spanish, that I was going to the store.

“Me voy a mercado” (I’m going to the store)

As I say this, I stress strongly the “V” sound in “voy”; not aware at that point that “V” in Spanish has between a very soft “V” sound and a hard “B” sound. Due to my failure to properly enunciate the word as the doorman knew it, he did not understand me at all. “No entiendo”, he replied. I repeated myself several more times, each time with increasing frustration. After several minuntes, he figured it all out and corrected me by repeating what I was trying to say, but pronouncing “voy” like “boy”.

The linguistic lesson here was clear. When learnining a language, it’s necessary to learn how letters and words are pronounced in that language. In the conversation with the doorman, I said all the right words, but not as they would be understood in Spanish by a native Spanish speaker.

The Bigger Lesson

The larger lesson was to communicate so that the audience will understand the message which is intended. The issue we often have is, just like me with the doorman, we have the right words, thoughts and intentions, but they come out wrong. Often times, our warnings, feedback, honest opinions and lessons (and so on) are not expressed in ways that the audience will likely receive it.

And yes, even the obvious truth or a contrary but well-meaning opinion may still be met with opposition even when expressed right. As stated in my previous piece, feedback is not easy to hear and in many situations, the method of delivery is not the only factor that impacts how the other person receives the message. Other things such as culture, emotions, past experiences and knowledge also play a factor. What should be considered, however, is whether your message was clearly conveyed to your audience in a way that is as constructive and clear as possible (with as little damage as possible).

How to Give Feedback Effectively

While providing feedback is not always an exact science, there are some effective tools at one’s disposal in delivering feedback. Below are just a few things I’ve found that helps the delivery of a message:

– Being objective by highlighting the positive and negative
– Avoiding personal attacks
– Establish from the beginning a relationship of honesty
– Using objective evidence as support
– Reinforcement of the point by two or more trustworthy people
– Identify possible solutions; not just the problems

Conclusion: Do not Abuse the Power of Truth

It is important to understand that while one may hold the power of truth, that power must not be used to destruct and offend in the name of being honest. Yes, there are times where brutal honesty is necessary, but ensure that the focus is on the being honest, not on being brutal.


  1. Very awesome advice! The intended message can get lost in the delivery, and can often escalate the issues or cause more issues.


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