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Don’t Want to Know? Don’t Ask Questions

Don’t Ask Questions

Sometimes we ask people for feedback when we don’t really want the answer.

• Do I look fat in these pants?
• Do you think ______ (insert name of person you’re dating) is right for me?
• Was I rude to ______ (insert name of person who annoyed you)?
• Did I do a good job on ______ (insert project)?

Don’t ask questions you don’t want answered. If you do ask, don’t get defensive when you get an answer you don’t like.

If you ask for feedback, people may just give it to you. When they do, make it easy on them. So they’re willing to do it again. Don’t get defensive!

Every time we get defensive, we train people not to tell us the truth. And it doesn’t take many instances of dealing with our defensiveness before people learn that telling the truth (as they see it) is just too hard. So they stop. And we continue dating the wrong people, while wearing the wrong pants.

The right answer to feedback is always “thank you”, regardless of what you think of the feedback. It could sound something like, “Wow, that’s really disappointing. Thanks for telling me.”

If you want someone’s opinion, ask for it. And accept whatever they say graciously, regardless of what you actually think. And if you don’t want honest feedback or can’t take it without saying “thank you”, don’t ask.


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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