Value Truthful Feedback—Even When It’s Painful

Feedback can be tricky for some people. Some people are anti-conflict, so they avoid providing feedback to someone who may not be receptive to it. Some people don’t want to hear or see things that don’t fit the narrative they believe. I think about feedback differently. I try to focus on seeking truth vs. supportive feedback. What’s the truth in a situation? Do customers hate or love this product? Am I doing a great or awful job? I want to know the truth so I can make the best decision about whatever situation I’m in. I try to offer truth (or what I believe to be true) to others so they can make the best decisions they’re able to make.

The unfortunate thing about truth is that it isn’t always appreciated in the moment. It can cause awkwardness or even tension. It can strain relationships and change how people perceive or interact with you. Said differently, being truthful won’t make you Mr. or Ms. Popular. But being truthful doesn’t give you an excuse to be a jerk. Truth can and should be delivered respectfully.

As I’ve studied people who’ve accomplished the impossible or achieved outsize success, I’ve found that they’re often truth seekers. They seek, and offer others, reality. This has led to periods of being perceived negatively or having strained relations with others for some of these folks. But I believe that soliciting and accepting truth from others improved their decision-making. People who were patting them on the back for a genius decision may not have realized that hearing a painful truth may have led to the genius decision.

I try to be truthful with others instead of giving feel-good feedback—especially the founders I support. It doesn’t always make them feel great, but I do it in a respectful way I hope they can appreciate. In the end, I hope the truth helps them make better decisions so they can reach their full potential.