No Buts About It
Nobody likes to hear criticism. That's why I always use email. A lot of people think email is impersonal, which is even better cause it saves me the trouble of saying "don't take this personally." The recipients of my critical emails also find it helpful, because it is easy to set up a spam filter.
As the paragraph above illustrates (I hope), misdirection can be funny. They can even seem magical. And Dale Carnegie believes they have a very serious value in human relations as he cautions us to "call attention to people's mistakes indirectly."
Although his first principle is "Don't criticize, condemn or complain," Carnegie realized that nobody can grow without being able to learn from their mistakes. He gives several tips for those times it becomes necessary, including "begin with praise."
No buts about it
One tip is to replace the word "but" with "and." They are equally economical, but the former contradicts any initial praise while the latter reinforces it. For example, if you say "You did a great job on your English studies this semester, but not so well on your algebra" your child may perceive the praise as part of the slight. However, "you did such a great job on your English studies, and if you put the same effort into algebra that score should come up too" the praise of the hard work is not diluted. This is the growth mindset in action.
This would be a great...
Any type of behavior can be correct for certain circumstances. So another indirect approach to criticism could be to reframe the content. Find the situation where the behavior would be appropriate, and frame it in that context. For example, you can point out that a memo is coming across as pompous by saying "that would make a great academic article. Perhaps we should use a more conversational tone for the memo."
Kill them with kindness
Carnegie describes how steel executive Charles Schwab dealt with employees smoking on the factory floor despite a sign forbidding it. He walked over, handed each man a fine cigar, and then said "I'd appreciate it if you smoke these outside." Without mentioning the rule, and even recognizing that the men enjoyed the opportunity to smoke, he was thus able to make his point without being harsh. So don't tell someone they have bad breath - offer them a mint instead.
There are surely many other techniques for indirect criticism, and many circumstances where one may be preferable to another. What has worked for you?
Photo by eosmaia