Don’t Soften Your Criticism with Verbal Hugs

If you want to be a more effective communicator, have more productive meetings, and have people respect you more – skip the verbal hugs. “Sounds good Jim, but what the heck is a verbal hug?” Good question.

A verbal hug is used to soften the blow of a message you believe is going to be difficult to hear. By adding extraneous information that you may or may not believe, you offer a verbal hug, hoping it will make what you are really trying to say more palatable.

This can become problematic because the true message is no longer clear and can be disregarded or not even heard.

Give Respectful Criticism

Now, I am not saying that you should be harsh or outright mean in your communication. You should always be respectful. Just make sure you are also direct. Your best people want constructive feedback, and they want it in a way that is clear and to the point. It is best to provide them with something tangible they can act on. When we add the “hug,” the real issue is no longer clear. So, the ultimate goal of creating change may not happen.

Give Genuine Criticism

The verbal hugs can also make you seem disingenuous. Your team might wonder if you really meant all the positive things you said before you got to the point. This can hurt your ability to create change or manage your team in the future. Later, when you give them kudos they won’t help but wonder when “the other shoe is going to drop.” It can be even worse when this is done in a meeting and the team as a whole starts to wonder this.

Give Efficient Criticism

It is also simply a waste of time. Without the verbal hugs, you will have shorter meetings. You will get to the point faster. You will solve issues more quickly.

One of my favorite aspects of EOS® is that it ends up creating this culture in your organization. You are able to get to the point where nothing is taken personally. Instead of perceived attacks or insults, you have an issue that can be solved – and the more direct we are with our communication, the more effective and accurate we are in achieving this.

So, skip the verbal hugs, and move right to having a team that respects you, conducts effective meetings, and understands your feedback. Sign me up. That’s the real candy.

Next Steps

Written by Jim Coyle on January 23, 2017

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