When you’re faced with telling a person something that will be extremely hard to hear, pretend you’re just saying, “Your fly is down,” or “You have spinach in your teeth.” These less-fraught scenarios can help you approach bigger problems more straightforwardly. To see how to apply the Radical Candor framework to giving guidance, imagine a simple scenario: a colleague, Alex, has walked out of the restroom, fly down, shirttail sticking out the front. What do you say? Let’s say you decide to overcome the awkwardness and speak up. You know Alex will be embarrassed when you point out the zipper, but if you say nothing, ten more people will probably see Alex looking ridiculous. So you pull Alex aside and quietly say, “Hey, Alex, your fly is down. I always appreciate when people point it out to me when I’ve done the same thing. I hope you don’t mind my mentioning it.” Your behavior is in the Radical Candor quadrant—both caring personally and challenging directly. If on the other hand you point out Alex’s fly loudly in front of other people, trying to be funny by intentionally humiliating Alex, your behavior is in the Obnoxious Aggression quadrant. However, that’s not the worst possible scenario from Alex’s perspective, since you gave her the chance to fix the problem. If you know Alex is shy and will be embarrassed, maybe you decide to say nothing and hope Alex notices the fly without your saying anything. This behavior puts you in the Ruinous Empathy quadrant. In this scenario, ten more people see Alex’s fly down with the ridiculous white shirt sticking out of the front, and by the time Alex notices, it’s obvious her fly has been down for a really long time. Now Alex is even more embarrassed than if you’d said something immediately—and probably wonders why you didn’t have the courtesy to mention it. Finally, imagine you decide not to say anything because you’re thinking about your own feelings and reputation. You’re silent not because you’re concerned for Alex, but because you want to spare yourself. You care deeply about being liked, and you’re worried Alex won’t like you if you say something. You’re also worried if people overhear you saying something to Alex, they will judge you. So you walk on by and say nothing. If you’re really shameless, you might whisper to the next person who comes along to go check out Alex’s fly. Congratulations—your behavior is in the worst quadrant: Manipulative Insincerity!
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