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It’s the original F word.

Not all feedback, mind you.  There’s the good kind, and there’s the toxic kind.

In its ideal form, feedback is designed to help someone improve.

When given with trust and respect, feedback can be heard and acted upon.

But when it’s toxic, it can get ugly.

Many a verbal lashing and cruelty has been shed in the name of “Feedback”.

For those with weak egos, one toxic experience of this sort can make them feedback averse for years.

However, if you’re strong enough to realize that there’s a silver lining, even your feedback foes can be fruitful.

A friend and colleague of mine, Roy, is the chief marketing officer for a global nonprofit.  In his role, he interacts with dozens of stakeholders every week.

After a recent marketing piece went out, Roy received this email:


Saw  your new marketing piece.  YAWN!  Is this as good as it gets?  This is boring and stale.  No wonder we’re not attracting new members.  This is the same old same old.  Boring. I’m not sure if I want to be involved anymore.


Chicago, IL

Roy had a tough time swallowing these words.  As he told me,

I got real triggered with Ben. Man, was I angry. I don’t even know who he is.  How dare he just come up out of the blue and write to me like that?

After giving himself some time to calm down, Roy composed this response:


Your email really triggered me.  I’d like to explore why.  Let’s talk—but on a phone call, not email.


Rather than avoid his fear, Roy ran straight into it.

Roy and Ben had a 30 minute conversation about the marketing pieces.  As Roy told me, Ben’s worked in marketing and PR for a decade, and has all kinds of ideas on how they can rework their messaging.  All kinds of great ideas that Roy never had.

Ben’s going to continue to volunteer his expertise to help Roy.

Roy said the conversation was worth its weight in gold.

As Roy told me,

The only reason that Ben got so hot with me in his first email is that he cares so much about what we’re doing as an organization.

Good wisdom to follow.

How can you reframe the heat of your conflicts, and see the intense heat as the degree to which people care?

Turn feedback foes into feedback friends.


Alain Hunkins leads personal and professional development trainings for individuals, teams and organizations. Over the last two decades, Alain has facilitated for over a thousand groups, ranging from at-risk youth to Fortune 500 executives. He moves between the educational, artistic, not-for-profit, government and corporate worlds. Alain sharpened his facilitation skills as an Educational Consultant in New York City, developing programs on many subjects, including Conflict Resolution, Networking, Customer Service, Communication, and Leadership.
Alain earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College and his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee Professional Theater Training Program. He is a certified Leadership Challenge & MBTI facilitator, as well as a certified co-leader for ManKind Project International, whose mission is to help men lead missions of service in their families, communities, and workplaces. Alain completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 1995.

– is a deeply personal issue that everyone decides for himself. Sometimes the price is high, sometimes low. But this is not very important for life. Life is an interesting thing. And the price on Viagra – too.