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Ever find yourself desperately wanting to give another person feedback, but also struggling with the possibility of their defensiveness? You want to help them get better results, but you don’t want to waste your time or energy with someone who may be reactive.

This is exactly where I found myself when I first met David Addi of Big Daddy Addi Promotions. When I first met David, I remember thinking to myself, “Great guy, but how am I supposed to take him seriously with a business name like that?”

On our second meeting, I thought the same thing again but chose to avoid the topic.

A couple of years later, David fostered a connection that led to a speaking engagement for me. Feeling grateful, I wanted to return the favor. So I started talking about David and his promotional products business with leaders who might be in need of his services.

A few weeks after delivering my speech, I came across two business owners in the same day who not only knew David, but wanted to hire him. Their problem? “Big Daddy.”

“I know it seems trivial, Misti, but my operations officer can’t get past his business name,” one business owner shared with me.

Tell him that,” I urged.

“I don’t know him well enough yet.”

“Me either! But someone needs to tell him and guy-to-guy would be better than me giving him the feedback.”

Recognizing the opportunities David was losing because of a simple business name, I had to say something. Before I could talk myself out of it again, I picked up the phone and called him.

After a few minutes of chit chat, I let him know that I had some feedback I wanted to share and asked if my timing was good.

“Yes!” he responded enthusiastically.

“I have just a few minutes. Are you sure that now is a good time?”

“Yes, give me what you’ve got!”

To ensure he saw me as one of his biggest advocates, I repeated what I’d heard him say about his career vision. Then, I shared what I’d heard from both business leaders.

As I’d feared, this set off alarm bells in David’s head and he spent the next fifteen minutes defending his business name while explaining the significance of it.

“What you’re saying makes sense,” I said when he paused to take a breath, “And I wonder if there’s a way to keep the significance while also finding a name that resonates with your customers.”

Recognizing his discomfort and my inability to help in the moment, I suggested that he keep an open mind. “Nothing needs to change immediately,” I suggested before hanging up.

I got a call from David the next day letting me know that he’d talked to his business coach, colleagues and a few clients. “They all love my business name. In fact, they say it distinguishes me in the market,” he said with conviction.

Great, I thought, my approached worked against him.

Rather than insist on my point of view and try to get him to see things differently, I encouraged him to sit with the feedback. “You don’t need to do anything drastic immediately,” I suggested again.

Fortunately, I had no stake in the game—his decision didn’t have a direct impact on me, so detaching and trusting him to find his own answers was fairly easy.

Recognizing the difficulty of hearing the feedback I’d given him, I called David the next week to see how he was doing.

“I thought it through with my coach, Misti, and I’ve decided to open up to the possibility of a new name. If an idea comes to you, will you please tell me?”

“Of course, David,” I said, “But remember, there’s no rush.”

The next day, I remembered a list of four questions I’d seen used to help another entrepreneur find clarity and emailed them to David.

Before giving candid, compassionate feedback, consider asking yourself these 4 questions:

  1. What are my intentions?
  2. Am I willing to take the risk?
  3. Am I willing to allow the person the time they need to recover—to adjust to the feedback?
  4. Am I willing to do what I can to help them get the kinds of results they want?

Before giving candid feedback, consider asking, “Is now a good time?” This puts them in the drivers seat, strengthens trust and creates the best possible conditions for improved results.

The most empowering people on the planet are the ones who help you see yourself clearly, and with compassion. Giving (and receiving) feedback is rarely easy, and yet it’s the fuel we need for growth.

Get intentional

Take the risk

Allow time for recovery, and then

Follow up.

A couple of months later, I got a message from Big Daddy, letting me know he had worked with a messaging expert who helped him find his new name, Fired Up Promotions. He had already secured the website domain name and was preparing an official press release to unveil his new business name.

I was inspired, and deeply grateful I took the risk.

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister