Cruel to be kind

Every evening the owner of the restaurant asked me and the rest of the regulars: ‘How was your meal?’ And despite the slow service, cold food and mistaken orders, every evening we lied and replied: ‘Very good, thank you.’ When the restaurant went out of business at the end of the year, the owner was mystified. ‘I can’t understand it!’ he exclaimed, ‘whenever I asked you and the rest of the regulars if you enjoyed your meals, you all always said ‘very good, thank you.’

Sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind and tell people what you really think. After all, it’s hard to get better at anything if no one tells you where you are going wrong and how to improve. But most of us don’t enjoy receiving feedback, unless it’s entirely positive! Participants on our courses, for example, are always invited to give us their comments. Although the positive comments far outnumber the negative, it’s the less favourable ones that stick in the mind…sting at times…and help us improve! Without this feedback, we’d never know what people really think and would run the risk of going out of business just like my mystified restaurant owner.

And feedback, of course, doesn’t always need to be solicited. It’s quite alright to offer friends and colleagues unsolicited feedback, as long as the reason for it is a genuine desire to help the other improve. Just remember to follow these rules:

  1. Be immediate: The best time to give feedback is as soon as possible after the event.
  1. Be direct, but not rude: Tell people clearly what you think –this is not rude, it’s honest.
  1. Focus on something fixable: Don’t ask the impossible (No pidas peras al olmo).
  1. Offer specific suggestions: Make sure the other person knows exactly what they can do to improve.

So, the next time I see someone in need of some honest feedback, I’m going for it: Cruel to be kind. I don’t want to be responsible for closing any more restaurants!