Very few people like to be told that they are wrong. But artful relationship-centric executives know how to deliver candid, poignant criticism without cutting thin skin.

Here are five ideas that support the classic approach of influencing without authority:

1. Speak to the person’s agenda. Say nothing until you determine how your negative comments will affect the individual’s self interest. Everyone wants to be promoted, keep people off his/her back, get rich, and be perceived as a leader – so express your opinion in terms of how the person’s approach will interfere with his/her goal.

2. Ask for clarification. If presenting your case directly strikes you as unwise, tactless, or potentially ineffective, try indirect approaches. Let the individual work through the flaws by including them in an, “If I’ve got this straight . . .” discussion.

3. Ask questions. Tell someone something and you are presumed to be questioning his competence. If you can get him to think of it himself, then there is no problem. Just remember to keep your voice neutral.

4. Fill in the picture. With lack of appropriate and ample information, anyone can make faulty decisions. Complete their knowledge of the situation.

5. Shift the blame. When you meet individuals who are “never wrong,” state the negatives in terms of the other parties involved. Ex: “That customer is touchy.”

Become a careful critic and you are much more likely to get things done even through those with whom you may disagree.

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