Growing up, were you ever punished for something that someone else did? The chances are pretty good that you were; and if so, you may still feel a little twinge of resentment when you think about how unfair it was to get blamed for something you didn’t do.
There are at least two reasons why this happens:
- The “adult in charge” can’t figure out who did the crime, so rather than let it go, they make everyone do the time, in hopes that this will put peer pressure on the offending party. (It usually doesn’t.)
- The person in authority doesn’t want to confront the offender, so they pretend to not know who screwed up and send out a general warning or correction, hoping that it will reach and persuade the guilty party. (It usually doesn’t.)
Here’s an example of how this works among adults:
Apps Make it Easy to Not Talk to Someone
If you’re not familiar with Nextdoor, it’s an app that connects folks who live in the same neighborhood so that they can bitch and moan, argue with each other, and occasionally share useful local information. 🙂
Glancing at it the other day, I saw that a woman we’ll call Jane had posted this message:
Good morning folks!! I’m not going to call ANYONE OUT BUTTTTTTT This is NOT a dating site…It is NOT OK to private message me to ask how I’m doing. Thank you!
OK, so she thought someone was hitting on her. And she didn’t want to “call them out” or tell them to back off, so she warned off everyone on the site instead.
What was the result?
73 people made comments, often sarcastic, about how it was OK to privately message them.
And I’m guessing that the person Jane most wanted to reach either missed her post, or didn’t apply it to themselves.
People Do This in Business, Too!
When someone contacts me to discuss leading a workshop, the first thing we do is talk about their needs.
And surprisingly often, what they need is for one person to act better—to not be so brusque, to listen more attentively, to stop answering questions with sarcasm, etc.
Why, then, if their problem was with one person, do they want me to do a workshop?
So that they can avoid having to talk to someone specific!
Unfortunately, delivering a general critique to a group (and hoping it will reach the one person who needs it),
- Is like posting a general comment on Nextdoor,
- Runs the risk of making the innocent bystanders in your group feel unfairly criticized, and
- Generally doesn’t work.
When It’s Hard to Talk to Someone, Who You Gonna Call?
I would suggest you contact a Public Speaking Coach. We can help you:
- Refine your message,
- Practice delivering it confidently, and
- Strategize an approach that makes it more likely you’ll be heard.
Or, we can deliver the feedback ourselves. After connecting and establishing trust, we can:
- Point out a troublesome behavior,
- Explain why it probably isn’t working for the person we’re coaching,
- Persuade them to try a new approach, and
- Show them how to do that.
This type of dialogue isn’t negative. It’s a positive exchange that provides information, options, and a chance for the person being coached to learn new skills.
So next time you’re tempted to avoid giving someone important feedback, remember: What you’re planning to do is not calling them out, not singling them out, and not punishing them.
What you’re planning to do is called communicating!