Calling UP not OUT 

There will be times when we need to give someone critical feedback. … They let us down. They underperform. They don't do what they said they would do. They hurt our feelings. … We want them to hear us, understand us, and respond to the feedback that we're giving them -- even though it's critical.

One way we can increase the likelihood of them responding versus reacting is to call them up instead of calling them out.


What do I mean? To "call someone out" is what we often do. We get hurt, we get upset, we get frustrated, we get disappointed … and we go and say in a critical tone: "What happened? Why didn't you do this? You said you'd do X, but you did Y."

That is calling someone out. They feel like we're against them. And at the moment we may be.

Instead, if pause, get ourself together, and give them the benefit of a doubt -- that they didn't mean to disappoint us, let us down, underperform, fail to follow through, or hurt our feelings -- we can then convey through our words and a warm, genuinely curious tone: "I thought we were on the same page last week when we met, but I haven't gotten the report yet. What happened?" Or "That hurt. Can we talk?" Or "I know you've been working on this, but I'm just not seeing the outcome I want yet."

When we communicate in a way that says "I'm giving you the benefit of a doubt -- that the disappointment or frustration I'm feeling isn't what you wanted me to feel -- you didn't want to let me down." … they know I am for them and for our relationship -- even though I have critical feedback to give. I'm "calling them up" -- giving the benefit of a doubt that they want to do better -- but we need to talk about how they let me down.

When we're able to give someone the benefit of a doubt -- to call them up -- they're more likely to be able to hear our critical feedback, understand our critical feedback and respond to our critical feedback instead of getting defensive, because we call them out.

Consider this:

  • Keep this in mind the next time you need to give somebody critical feedback: Call them up, not out. You'll likely get a better response and outcome. 

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Melissa Mitchell-Blitch

About the author

A former CPA, my career started at a Big 5 accounting firm. As part of the Family Wealth Planning group, I saw the challenges of family business and family wealth. Those challenges often overshadowed the enjoyment of working with family. I was convinced there had to be a better way, but could not find anyone who could help navigate the intersection of family, business, and wealth. Determined, I left my career in finance and earned a Masters in Psychology.
In the almost two decades since, I have learned how families can thrive -- even when business is personal. Let me help you, your family, and its business thrive.

Let's talk about what matters to you.

I am based in Charleston, SC and serve clients across North American and abroad.

To schedule a consultation and see if we are a good fit to work together, please contact me directly via phone or email.