Consider the statements “you made me angry”,“you made me upset”.

In my last tip I suggested that we shouldn’t put off sharing difficult feedback on the grounds that it might upset or anger the recipient. I have had a number of emails asking if I can explain a little bit more about this. One writer was concerned that I was advocating a manager becoming a robot and losing sight of the potential human and emotional impact.

Let me try and explain with a story. One day quite a few years ago I was walking my two small children to primary school. It had been raining heavily overnight and the roads and pavements were very wet. A Tesco van drove through a large puddle and soaked the three of us on the pavement. My response was to get very angry, wave my fist at the departing van and shout some colourful language. My daughter’s response was to burst into tears and lament her wet shoes and summer dress. My son on the other hand chose to laugh his head off and jump up and down in the nearest puddle.

My point is that we all chose our responses; to shout angrily, to cry and to laugh. The driver did not ‘make us’ do this. In fact he was probably completely unaware of our existence or our predicament. The drenching was certainly his fault (he caused the event) but having the ability to control our emotions is not in his power. On another day I might have laughed or cried or even better chose to control my anger and focus more on my children’s welfare.

Let’s come back to any difficult conversation. Once you recognise that actually you can’t ‘make’ someone angry or upset then there goes one big reason to avoid giving the feedback. You can now concentrate on delivering the message as best you can.

Any what if the person still cries or gets angry?

Well that might be the focus of my next tip.