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Please Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

I coach successful people. I deliver some hard truths. They don’t always like what they hear. I don’t always package it as well as I should. Many have the power to fire me instantly, and, at least, make my working with that company extremely uncomfortable. No matter, my job is to deliver the hard truth.

We all want to be told we’re right. Even when we’re paying for advice to tell us what is wrong and how to fix it. Why? We’re used to being in charge and telling others what’s wrong and how to fix it. It’s a human dilemma that exists in every organization.

Honest feedback can be upsetting. From anyone, about anything, at any time. Employees are reluctant to give it. Most people PERIOD are reluctant to give it to you! But if you want to solve your problems and achieve superior results, you need to hear it and do something with it.

Here’s an alternative approach—for business executives, for salespeople, for all of us, in any position: when someone cares enough to tell you the truth about you, good or bad, bite your tongue until it bleeds, listen, and really hear what they have to tell you. Then thank them for being truthful with you. It’s an almost impossible thing for most people to do! Learn to appreciate it when it happens, especially when it’s painful. It’s painful because it touches a very sore spot in our psyches.

How about this?  Figure out how they might be right. Process what they’ve said, reflect on it, learn from it, and decide what you’ll do. You’re not forced to do what they say. But please don’t shoot the messenger. They’re being truthful, they’re vulnerable, they care, and they’re human, too. They respect you enough to tell you the truth. They may be the only one who will.

Sure, they should show more compassion, as much as they can while being honest. The truth can hurt and hurt badly. It can also set us free—by making our direction clear, by telling us what we need to know so we can mend our ways and enjoy better results than we’ve been getting.

No message—no messenger—created your problem. However, that message—delivered by messenger—just might solve it! Whoever delivers the honest—and often painful—feedback cares enough about you to be honest with you. So, please, don’t shoot the messenger!

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